Superintendent's Office

March 7, 2017


"Three Key Years" is the name of a book authored by George Halvorson that is worth reading especially if you want to learn more about ways to reduce crime, decrease poverty, and address a host of other social policy matters.  It will change your perspective while increasing your understanding about how the impact of experiences, during the first three years of life, has on our children’s’ future.

For people who care about the future of every child in our community, this book is a must read. The book provides some pretty obvious pathways to follow for parents, relatives, civic leaders, and our entire community to help our children succeed.

Here's the crazy part -- it’s simple, easy, and doable at a very low financial cost.  In fact, you could say that it all comes down to simply: Talk. Read. Play. Sing.  Yep, believe it or not, the more we talk, read, play, and sing to children between the ages of birth-to-three, the more we develop a well-functioning brain in those children.

Three Key Years explains the brain science behind neuron development that occurs during these three early years.  The book contains research summaries from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Washington, and Stanford universities.  The game summary is simple, we need to read, play, sing, and talk more with our little ones -- how fun is that?  The research goes on to suggest that it may only require 30 minutes of direct interaction/playing each day; 30 minutes of reading each day; and 20 minutes of talking and questioning/answering.  The 30/30/20 rule seems simple and within reason.

This book talks about statistics related to a variety of factors that all stem back to brain development and talk, read, sing, and play.  For example, the number of words known by kindergarten directly correlates to a predictor of prison by age 18.  Another statistic talks about a child with reading deficiencies is 40% more likely to become pregnant as a teenager; 60% more likely to drop out of school; and 70% more likely to land in prison.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of race, social class, ethnic background, religion, or gender, our brains all go through the same physiological development process and therefore, each child either benefits or is hindered during that three-year window of time.  Talk. Read. Play. Sing.

Our brain needs exercise and that exercise in the first three years of life will build the physical structure and the infrastructure of a child's brain that will allow them to build upon for the rest of their life.  A poorly structured brain in its early years of development will always have limits and be less capable for a lifetime.  Conversely, a better built, well-structured brain will have the capacity and infrastructure to develop greater capacities.  Reading, talking, playing, and singing are all forms of brain exercises.

So what can community members do to help?  Read the book (you can borrow mine if you want).  Spread the word; create greater awareness; if you are a grandparent, talk to your children and help them understand the importance of talk, play, read, and singing to your grandkids.  Provide books to those in need; support care givers with books and music for children; help spread the word and create greater awareness.

If you are a parent, put down your phone, get off the computer, turn off the TV and talk, play, read, and sing to your child just a bit more often.....and remember, learning doesn't begin at school.



Mr. Jamie Benson

Superintendent of Schools
School District of River Falls


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  • School District of River Falls
  • 852 East Division Street, River Falls, WI 54022
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