Magazine article Work & Family Life

Language Gap among Kids Is Growing

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Language Gap among Kids Is Growing

Article excerpt

Alandmark study 20 years ago found that by age three, children whose parents were more educated and affluent had heard millions more words than kids with less educated parents had heard-and that this gave them a big advantage when they went to school.

Now a follow-up study led by Stanford University psychologist Anna Fernald has found that the language gap starts even earlier. She reported in the journal Developmental Science that more affluent kids at 18 months could identify pictures of simple words they knew (like dog and ball) much faster than kids from lower-income families. By age two, the more affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the poorer kids.

Because oral language and vocabulary are so connected to reading comprehension, this means that the most disadvantaged children face real challenges once they start school and are learning to read.

"The gap just gets bigger and bigger, and it's very hard to undo," says Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an advocate of early education for low-income children.

Currendy there are federal, state and city initiatives aimed at providing preschool for four-year-olds from low and moderate-income families, such as Head Start. …

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