KU joins national leaders to bridge the word gap

Reading is one of the simplest ways a teacher can help children increase their vocabulary, as Mt. Lebanon discovery preschool teacher Tawyna Starks knows.

Reading is one of the simplest ways a teacher can help children increase their vocabulary, as Mt. Lebanon discovery preschool teacher Tawyna Starks knows.

Today Dr. Elanna Yalow, Knowledge Universe CEO of Early Learning Programs, joined to a select group of public and private sector leaders at a White House workshop aimed at increasing literacy for disadvantaged children and closing the word gap that results in future educational disparities.

Elanna joined policy makers and leaders from The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Too Small to Fail, and the Urban Institute for the event aimed at sharing federal, state, and local best practices to bridge the word gap.

“Increasing awareness of this issue can only help our nation’s youngest children,” Elanna said. “Each time a parent reads to their baby, teaches new words to their toddler, and helps an older child learn to recognize their letters and read on their own, that parent is helping to set their child on the path to future success.”

Research has shown that significant disparities in a child’s exposure to language impacts their vocabulary growth, and in turn, their ability to learn to read and write. In today’s workshop Elanna and the other leaders discussed the latest national research on effective caregiver-directed interventions and innovative efforts that address the word gap.

In the United States, a child from a professional family hears an average of 215,000 words per week, while a child from a more economically disadvantaged family only hears, on average, 62,000 words per week. By the time a child is three years old, a child from a more advantaged home will have heard 30 million more words than a child from a lower income family. That child will be better able to grasp the fundamentals of reading and will be at a significant advantage when they enter school. This word gap can have significant adverse consequences for our children’s future.

“All parents want the best for their children,” said Elanna. “Our teachers know how important it is to expose children to a language- and word-rich environment during the time they spend in KU centers building their language and literacy skills through reading and talking.”

To learn more about the word gap and KU’s work on the issue, watch this story from Portland, Ore.’s CBS station and read Elanna’s “Five Questions” article on the KinderCare blog.

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