The Word Gap

There is no such thing as starting too early on your child’s vocabulary skills. Twenty years ago two researchers, Betty Hart and Todd Risley “The Early Catastrophe” study showed that some three year old children heard 30 million less words than others. 30 million – wow! This has been called the “thirty million words project” or “word gap.” Parents can help their young children (infants and toddlers) stay ahead of the game.

Start reading early. I read to my children by 5 months of age. They sat in my lap and helped me turn the pages of the board book. As they grew older, we graduated to different levels of books. We read signs as we walked around town and passed them on the highway.

Talk about what you are doing. If you are making cookies or building a birdhouse, talk about what what you are using and doing. They will hear words specific to each activity and add to  their vocabulary with each interaction.

Make up Stories. Use your imagination creating a variety of stories. They’ll start to notice stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Eventually, they will notice each story has a problem and a solution. They’ll hear words specific to each story setting.

Experience the world. Go on field trips to the zoo, aquarium, grocery store, library, and park. Talk about what you see and do.

Each interaction builds your child’s vocabulary and gives them a leg up on language and don’t widen the “word gap.”

If your child doesn’t recognize letters by age 2 or 3 years of age this could be an early sign of reading and/or language difficulties. Most children recognize letters and the sounds they make by age 4 or 5. If you suspect a language problem, contact your local school for information on how to get your child’s speech and language tested. You can also go to the American Speech Language Hearing Association’s website to find a speech language pathologist near you. Early intervention is the key to closing the gap.