Does your conversation in the home have an effect on your little one?
One of the most intriguing articles I have read about a child’s developing vocabulary is The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3 (Hart & Risley, 2003). Hart and Risley (2003) endeavored to answer the question, “Could we, or parents, predict how a child would do in school from what the parent was doing when the child was 2 years old?” (p. 8). They conducted a study of 42 families with diverse economic backgrounds including lower, middle and upper class families (Hart & Risley, 2003).
After observing family interactions in the home, from the time a child was an infant to three years old, this is what they discovered, “In four years of such experience, an average child in a professional family would have accumulated experience with almost 45 million words, an average child in a working-class family would have accumulated experience with 26 million words, and an average child in a welfare family would have accumulated experience with 13 million words” (Hart & Risley, 2003, p. 8). That means the average disparity between a four-year-old child’s vocabulary from a wealthy family compared to a child from a family with low economic status is 32 million words. It was noted that all families in this study made an effort to nurture, play with, and discipline their children. So, why is there such a difference?
Here are 5 tips for parents of young children:
1. Parent-child communication is important from the time a child is an infant.
2. The amount of time spent and the quality of words used while talking to your child matters.
3. The complexity of your child’s vocabulary at three years old can be used to accurately predict his or her language abilities at 9-10 years old (Hart & Risley, 2003, p.8).
4. Parents should work to give more compliments than discouragements to your child.
“…an average child in a welfare family would have accumulated 125,000 more instances of prohibitions than encouragements” (Hart & Risley, 2003, p.9).
5. Children ARE listening to what you say.
Hart, B. & Risley, T.R., (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3. American Educator, 4-9.