We join our early education colleagues in Massachusetts and across the country in remembering Betty Bardige, who passed away last month.

Betty was a fierce advocate for children and families. She was a developmental psychologist and an expert on early language development. She was a long-time resident of Cambridge, Mass., who served for nearly two decades on the board of the Cambridge Community Foundation. And she was a co-author of the book “Children at the Center,” which tells the story of Boston Public Schools’ preschool program.

As her website makes clear, Betty wanted every child to start school with a “wealth of words.”

In her book, “Talk to Me, Baby!: How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development,” Betty reminds of us how much power word wealth can have, writing:

“Little children love big words. Although these words may be hard to pronounce, they are fun to repeat and usually impress the listener. And an impressed listener is likely to teach a child all kinds of things in a play talk conversation because… it’s fun and rewarding for both of them.

“Children whose language is more sophisticated when they enter kindergarten will be seen by their teachers as more mature and competent. Their rate of learning will be faster because they will be able to ask more interesting questions and comprehend more complicated answers. When responding to these children’s sophisticated interests and vocabularies, teachers will provide more information, richer language, and more challenges. Facility in playing with sound will give these children a head start on reading. Once they learn to read on their own, they will acquire new words and information from books, and their learning will accelerate.”

To encourage this approach, Betty shared her work and efforts widely. As Betty’s daughter, Kori, writes of her mother:

“We would chat for hours about education. She was a wonderful sounding board for ideas, but always knew when and how to share her own vast knowledge. Always the consummate researcher, she was constantly reading and talking with experts to learn new techniques that could benefit children, families, and educators. When attending conferences together, I would watch in awe as mom went from session to session, gathering and sharing new ideas, stopping to talk with friends and colleagues, and making new connections to amplify her message. Her ability to create synergies and connect not only people but organizations and ideas was incredible. Mom had an unbelievable ability to not only support others in their goals, but to share her vision and invite others to join her in making a difference!”

We will miss Betty’s energy and enthusiasm and her commitment to equity. She was a brilliant, strategic thinker whose unwavering belief in the power of early childhood education made her an inspiration to families, early educators, and advocates.

We will honor her memory by carrying on her mission, working toward the goal of sending all children to school with Betty’s beloved great wealth of words.