Thursday, April 16, 2015

Millions of Missing Words...

For babies and preschoolers, vocabulary is king.

The vast majority of a preschooler's vocabulary is derived from their parents' vocabularies. A 2003 study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley discovered that children living in poverty hear about 25% of the words per hour that children from middle and high income families do. This adds up: babies and preschoolers from high-income homes could be expected to experience 30 million more words before they reach school age than will those children living in poverty (Hart & Risley, 2003).

Hart & Risley's study is now over 10 years old. With the advent of smartphones and later tablets, even children in middle and high income households are experiencing the vocabulary of poverty now. Parents are spending hours each day texting, posting on social media, reading and working from their smartphones and tablets. All of this time involves little to no oral language for babies and preschoolers, which is how children learn language best at this age - face-to-face with their caregivers. 

For every hour spent looking silently at a device instead of talking with our children, we deprive them of the adoption of 2,000 more words into their lexicon. Over the course of a single day, this can add up to more than 10,000 words lost or delayed (Short, 2013). Over the course of five years, their vocabularies will have shrunk by a third or more compared to children from comparable income levels in prior years.

This is a big problem, but together we can fix it. Visit me at to find out how! 

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