The Word Deficit and the Tar Pit

Who knew? It turns out that one of the biggest differences between children of well-to-do vs. poor parents, is that the latter children have a serious deficit of words. Well-off children, on average, hear about 30 million more words in the first three years of their lives.

This article explains some of the research.

Children in Finland do not start school until age seven. Parents are encouraged to read to their own children. If you are a parent, you have the tools to help your child. Converse. Use your big-boy or big-girl words. Talk early, talk often. While the correlation between talkative parents and talkative children with large vocabularies is strong, it is independent of Socio-economic status and race; the children of poor black parents who talk as often and in the same ways, test well. Children of taciturn professionals do not.

Talk about arithmetic too – count things. Add things. Doesn’t matter if you know calculus or not. Count baby’s fingers and toes. Ask them to give you “Two fives. Two fives make ten. Give me ten, baby.”

Schools cannot eliminate the racial academic achievement gap because schools did not create it. This gap comes to schools with children from their homes, families and communities. The gap, which is well-established before kindergarten, widens during the first three years of schooling. — Phillip Jackson

To really fix the gap, parents must fix themselves. Converse with your child. Talk about everything under the sun. Read to your child. Count their baby toes.

When they do get to the school years – about which, more in other posts – the school can’t do much to help children catch up; it’s more like a tar pit. If you’ve been conversing with your child all along, it is often you who will do most to help them catch up with or even surpass their peers.

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