Oral language plays a very important role in developing vocabulary and reading comprehension skills for young children. The more you read, talk, and expose your children to language, the more vocabulary knowledge they develop. What is important is that it is “authentic language exposure.” In other words, flashcard drills are good, but that’s not what develops a child’s language. Instead going to the grocery store and talking to your child about what you are going to buy, “oh look there are the oranges” (as you point and grab an orange). This is what authentic language looks and sounds like.
The New York Times recently posted an article, “Language Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K” discussing the language gaps between upper class (median income $69,000) and working class families ($23,900). Past studies show that children of wealthier parents have heard millions of more words in comparison to children of working class families. Current research conducted by Ann Fernald a psychologist at Stanford University found that 18 month-old children from wealthier families can identify words “dog” and “ball” faster than children of lower income homes. Additionally by the age of 3, children of wealthier famlieis hear 30 million words than children from low- income households.
In a separate studie done by Fernald, she records the vocabulary of 29 children from low-income households. Fernald differentiates between words overheard from television, adult conversation and adult-child conversation. Children of 19 months heard as little as 670 ‘child-directed’ words compared to their peers who heard 12,000 words. This is about double the amount of words. Although there are many great television programs and apps out there for children, nothing compares to carve giver-child conversations and interactions.
Educators and administrators are taking an active approach and pushing for Pre-K in all elementary schools. Schools are also working closely with parents. They are providing workshops for parents on parenting, play, literacy, and English classes. These are great free resources for parents to take advantage of.
So next time you go to the grocery, make a list with our child and point out the fruits and vegetables you see while shopping.
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