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Let’s Stop Talking About The ’30 Million Word Gap’

KQED News Mind/Shift – Anya Kamenetz

“Did you know that kids growing up in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 3? Chances are, if you’re the type of person who reads a newspaper or listens to NPR, you’ve heard that statistic before. Since 1992 this finding has, with unusual power, shaped the way educators, parents and policymakers think about educating poor children.” (more)

Showing Students the Power of Words

Edutopia – Robert Ward

“The longer I teach, the more I realize that my rapport with each student is based on how effectively I speak with them, both publicly and one on one. When I express empathy, my students’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences are validated. Through my words of warmth and acceptance, each child becomes an integral part of our class community.” (more)

Narrow vocabulary ‘hits pupils’ grades’

BBC – Hannah Richardson

“Monosyllabic adolescents may be nothing new, but the latest research suggests a big chunk of them do not know enough words to do well at school. According to academics, four out of 10 pupils in their first year of secondary school have such a limited vocabulary that it is affecting their learning. Many teachers from the 800 secondaries involved in the Oxford University Press research say the problem is worsening. They blame the “word gap” on too little reading for pleasure.” (more)

Study reads between the lines in children’s vocabulary differences

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“The nation’s 31 million children growing up in homes with low socioeconomic status have, on average, significantly smaller vocabularies compared with their peers. A new study from the Callier Center for Communication Disorders at The University of Texas at Dallas found these differences in vocabulary growth among grade school children of different socioeconomic statuses are likely related to differences in the process of word learning.”(more)

Closing the 30 million word gap

E-School News – Dennis Pierce

“To cancel the effects of poverty, school systems are extending literacy programs to the larger community. Mention Napa County, Calif., and what comes to mind for most people are rows of sun-splashed grapes—and well-tanned couples sipping wine under the shade of a vine-covered pergola. But Napa has its share of poverty, too. More than half of the student population is Latino, and many of these students come from poor households where English isn’t spoken. “Most of our preschool kids who are native Spanish speakers come to school without anybody having read to them,” said Napa County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko. “Most of the parents of those children are not even literate in Spanish, so they’re not reading books of any kind.” Nemko and her staff were aware of the “30 million word gap”: the research-backed idea that children who grow up in poverty come to school having heard 30 million fewer spoken words than their peers from middle-class or upper-class homes putting them at a sharp disadvantage in terms of their language skills.”(more)

The ‘Word Gap’ Takes Root In Infancy; So Too Should Our Efforts to Close It

The Huffington Post – Sandra Waxman

“China is not the only nation grappling with policies affecting families with infants and young children. Here in the USA, policymakers and parents alike are wondering how to end disparities in access to high-quality childcare; a new report by the Economic Policy Institute documents that high-quality childcare has become inaccessible to low-income wage earners. Closing the gap matters for several reasons. Most importantly, without access to high-quality childcare, infants and toddlers from low-income families face increasingly steep developmental challenges. In many low-income homes, where parents must work multiple jobs and where childcare alternatives rich in language exposure are well beyond economic reach, young children may hear up to 30 million fewer words than their more advantaged peers. When they enter preschool, these children are already at a disadvantage. This “word gap” is not a fleeting or isolated phenomenon. Instead, it is associated with a cascade of deleterious consequences that serve as barriers to a child’s opportunity to learn, both in and outside the classroom. Ann Fernald, professor of psychology at Stanford University, and her colleagues found that toddlers who had the benefit of rich language exposure processed language more efficiently than those whose exposure to language was sparser. Sadly, this gap became grew wider with age: 24-month-olds from low-income homes processed language at the rate observed in 18-month-olds from middle-income homes.”(more)