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Closing the Million Word Gap Between Children
September 15, 2021
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to,” writes Jeff Grabmeier on the Ohio State website.

“This ‘million word gap’ could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development, said Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University. Even kids who are read only one book a day will hear about 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver.”

Bisa Batten Lewis, in an Exchange magazine article, "Supporting Parents in Guiding Early Language and Literacy Development" (which is the foundation for an Out of the Box Training Kit), provides developmentally appropriate strategies for supporting infants’ language and literacy learning that can be shared with families, in hopes of closing the word gap. She suggests:

  • Allowing baby to engage in reading with you (e.g. point, turn pages, and so on)
  • Actively talking with baby, with eye contact, about food, daily routines, outdoors, signs, pictures, books, and print in the environment
  • Singing songs, such as “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • Performing finger plays, such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”
  • Reciting nursery rhymes
  • Talking to baby about family photos
  • Listening to music with baby
  • Making sounds with baby using instruments or household objects
  • Making writing materials available for scribbling

Out of the Box Training

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Out of the Box Training Kits are ready-to-use professional development programs on a variety of contemporary topics to support and improve the skills and pedagogy of those who work with young children.

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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Tiffany Peckham · September 21, 2021
Lincoln, NE, United States

Francis, thank you for your thoughtful comment. We appreciate you taking the time to engage here!

-Tiffany at Exchange

Francis Wardle · September 15, 2021
Center for the Study of Biracial Children
Denver, Colorado, United States

There are really two significant studies that impact language development: the one cited here, and the study that correlates enhanced vocabulary acquisition with caregivers (parents, teachers, older siblings) who ENCOURAGE infants and young children to learn to talk - make different noises, try out new words, even experiment making up their own words - without correcting or punishment them. This is so very important. Its about power and control: giving it to infants and young children. With the current focus on diverse parenting and education styles (and the insistence by NAEYC that there is not such thing as best practices), its critical we focus on what we know works for ALL children,regardless of their backgrounds.

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