SchoolFamily Voices

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The Importance of Conversation With Young Kids

Have you heard of the 30-million word gap for children?

Psychologists Betty Hart of the University of Kansas and Todd Risley of the University of Alaska did a study of oral language. They observed 42 diverse families over a period of 2 1/2 years. They analyzed a child’s rate of language acquisition and parent’s communication style within three socioeconomic groups.

Their research discovered that by age 4, a child from a strong language environment would have experienced 45 million words. The study went on to show that a child from a minimal language environment would have experienced only 13 million words. (Hart & Risley, American Educator, 2003)

I found this to be so fascinating. As a 1st grade teacher, I’ve been a witness to the subtle, yet powerful knowledge of words and their usage. I’ve seen, firsthand, how good vocabulary is a true indicator of good reading comprehension.

So strive to have those rich conversations with your young children. Don’t be fearful of using “SAT words” right from the start. Even though a one-word answer might satisfy a question, take the time to explain and engage your child in a meaningful dialogue.

By doing so, you’ll help your child increase their vocabulary and reading skills in “millions” of ways!


> Start Using Those SAT Words Early

> Start a "Word a Day" Bank in Your Family

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