In case you missed it, a New York Times article published the other day entitled “Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K” discussed the growing language gap among children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. It cited several studies and research which found that children with well-educated and higher income parents heard far more words than children who come from less educated households.
Why is oral language so important? It is because of how it influences vocabulary development and crucial reading comprehension later on. And the difference, according to the research, in the number of words children heard is actually quite staggering: children with highly educated, professional parents would have heard 30 million more words than children from lower-income households by the time they are 3 years old.
The article concludes that children with a more solid foundation in oral language development early in life have a distinct advantage in school and, hence, are on a stronger success trajectory.
As parents of young children, what does this mean for them?
1. Given the critical importance of vocabulary in early literacy, we ought to continue to have lots of natural conversations with our kids, at every possible opportunity.
2. We should continue to read to our children as often and as regularly as possible. While reading, feel free to stop in the middle of the story and ask questions about what’s on the page, or discuss what is happening in the story, to the characters, etc.
3. Let’s keep introducing new words to our children whenever we can. Talk about the weather: is it hot or cold? While at the park, explore and ask if objects are smooth or rough, round or flat. Describe fruit to them if they happen to be with you at the supermarket. Talk about the colors of the traffic light, or the shape of the stop sign. The possibilities are endless.
Developing a strong vocabulary and solid pre-literacy skills will just not happen, or naturally unfold in the course of growing up. As parents, we are in the best position to help our precious little ones along.
Happy talking and reading!