Talking with Kids: The Real Solution to Closing the 30 Million Word Gap

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The "word gap" theory, which suggests that children from low-income households have smaller vocabularies than their wealthier peers, has been a topic of concern in the education field for decades. However, recent research has shown that the word gap may not be as significant as previously thought. One of the criticisms of the study was the small sample size of 42 families, as with any studies a larger sample size is required for the results to be substantial.  

The key to helping children develop their language skills lies in engaging them in conversation with their parents. According to a study published in the journal Child Development, engaging children in conversation is a better predictor of their language development than the number of words they hear. The study found that children who engaged in more two-way conversations with their parents had stronger language skills, regardless of their family's income level.

This is good news for parents who may have felt discouraged by the idea that their child's language development was predetermined by their socioeconomic status. It means that all parents can help their children develop strong language skills by simply talking with them more.

Here are some tips for engaging your child in conversation:

1.     Ask open-ended questions: Instead of asking yes or no questions, ask questions that encourage your child to think and respond with more than a single word. For example, instead of asking "Did you have a good day?", ask "What was your favourite part of the day?"

2.     Listen actively: Pay attention to what your child is saying and respond to their comments and questions. This shows them that you value their thoughts and ideas and encourages them to keep talking.

3.     Use descriptive language: Use descriptive words to describe objects and actions to help your child develop their vocabulary. For example, instead of saying "The dog ran", say "The big, brown dog ran quickly."

4.     Play games that encourage conversation: Games like "I Spy" or "20 Questions" encourage children to describe objects and think creatively.

Remember, the key to helping your child develop strong language skills is to engage them in conversation. By talking with your child regularly and using descriptive language, you can help them develop the skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.