Children: Let Them Amaze You
When does learning begin?
Scientists are using the latest in brain imaging to come upon that ‘aha’ moment when they can definitively say, “This is the exact time that an infant’s brain lights up. Just look at those synapses firing connections!”
I have something to say about that - purely from a non-scientific perspective. When I was pregnant with my first child, I asked the doctor, “Is the womb soundproof?” My doctor was a very gentlemanly professional and put up with all my questions with the wisdom that he had earned from thirty-plus years of practice. He answered, “I’m sure your baby hears some of what’s going beyond the echoes that reverberate in his watery world.”
I took that for a ‘yes’. So I began to expose my son to my love of learning, in particular, my love of reading. I read to him while he languished in his watery world. I knew he was listening. I read all the nursery rhymes of my childhood and then launched into the extensive series, “Old Mother Westwind’s Children” by Thornton W. Burgess, whom I had reveled in as a child, which is a collection of stories about an entire forest of animals. The stories teach children the importance of building healthy relationships. I even read magazine articles from the National Geographic and described the pictures to my son as he kicked around in his echo chamber. I had a captive audience, as they say, and many months to share all things wonderful about the world to my son before he arrived.
My son grew up to be a ravenous reader. I am so glad. Reading is the key to knowledge. All five of my children were subsequently exposed to reading while in the womb. They are great lovers of books, as are my grandchildren. I believe that learning is one of life’s great legacies to pass on. Here’s an anecdote to support my statement:
Many years ago, I heard a story about a baby in France whose mother happened to work at the American Embassy all during her pregnancy. While on maternity leave, the woman stayed at home in her French-speaking household. After the baby was born, and a few months had passed, she and her husband grew concerned at their daughter’s lack of verbal interaction. Their pediatrician ran tests for deafness that came up negative. The mystery of their daughter’s silence remained unsolved until one day when the woman’s co-workers from the American Embassy came over for lunch. The baby sat in her mother’s lap as the women chatted around the table. After a few minutes, the baby began to make small sounds which the women didn’t notice. In another minute, the baby got louder, moving her arms about excitedly, getting everyone’s attention as she joined in their conversation with her own limited but distinctly American vocabulary!
There you have it. A baby learned an entire language in the womb from just going to work with her mother. Who knows what else babies familiarize themselves with while in their little watery worlds. We should give greater attention to the dynamics of an unborn’s ability, not to mention the attention that an infant deserves upon arrival!