Language Development and the 30 million “word gap”

17 Oct

Recently in the news there has been several stories about the research of psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley about the huge discrepancies between the language and interaction experiences of children from high income families vs. low income families. The news stories reference a “30 million word gap”, which is the gap between the number of words a low income child will hear by the time he/she is 3 years old versus the number of words a high income child will hear. Follow-up studies have shown that this gap has tremendous impact on vocabulary, language development, and reading comprehension during the school age years.

I think the most important information to be gleaned from the studies is not that we need to be focusing on the amount of words a child hears before age 3 but on the quality of the interactions and conversations that parents/caregivers are having with their small children.

I recommend these two articles for reading more about how to provide the best quality interactions and language stimulation for young children:

Good Talk: Raising Smart Learners Through Rich Conversations from MindShift

Stop Talking – and Start Listening To – Your Baby from Time

Both have excellent information and sources of additional information.

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