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Closing the Million Word Gap Between Children

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

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