Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K

Motoko Rich at The New Times writes of yet another study supporting how important early communication is to school readiness and achievement:

Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study [Hart & Risley’s Early Catastrophe, a key research guide in the development of Bright Beginnings programs] found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs. [This is known in Early Childhood Development circles as the “30-Million Word Gap”.]

The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.

The research keeps piling on the concept that early learning, school readiness and lifetime achievement often hinges on the interactive communication between adults and children in the first years of life. Bright Beginnings has been spreading this message for over 20 years to the parents and caregivers in Colorado. Contrary to the article’s conclusions, however, we believe the implications are most profound to the parents of children aged 0-3 — before they get to prekindergarten programs.