The New York Times' recent article on baby talk and babbling confirms what generations of parents (and children's librarians) have know for years: those "ba ba" and "da da" utterances that babies make are more than simply adorable; they are the precursors to language development. 

According to one expert, infants begin by making squealing sounds without any identifiable syllables.  By the age of six months, babies (typically) start forming vowel sounds ("aaa"  "ooo") and with practice, consonant sounds ("mmm") by the end of their first year. 

An interesting takeaway from the NYTimes piece was this advice derived from the results of a recent study on language accquisition of babies:

"....if a baby looks at an apple and says, “Ba ba!” it’s better to respond by naming the apple than by guessing, for example, “Do you want your bottle?”  Offering new vocabulary words, even to children too young to form those words, helps strengthen their understanding of language and ability to name new objects. 

Perhaps the most important result of all these new studies on language development was the discovery that "Babies have to hear real language from real people to learn these skills."  There is something irreplacable about the face-to-face contact between a parent and a child that television, even educational programs, cannot duplicate. 

One of the best ways to facilitate this brain-building interaction is by sharing a book with your baby.  As Horn Book editor Martha Parravano so elequently states in A Family of Readers, "Despite all of our society's technological advances, it still just takes one child, one book, and one reader to create this unique space, to work this everyday magic."

Interested in learning more about early brain development?  Charlie Rose has a wonderful series of videos on the brain.  The Developing Brain video may be of particular interest to parents. 

incredibly adorable baby photo courtesy of Flickr user koka_sexton