Friday, August 9, 2013

30 Million Word Gap

In the 1990s, a study was conducted to determine the single greatest influence on a child's achievement in school.  The result has nothing to do with Baby Einstein videos or teaching a child Mandarin Chinese in the crib.  

The answer may take you by surprise.  The most significant element is the number of words that a child hears by the age of three.  Talking to your kids and verbally interacting with them as infants and toddlers vitally impacts their success in school and beyond.

Initially, the researchers observed the interaction of parents with their children.  The research team actually counted the number of words spoken to babies up to the age of three.  Children in higher income families heard an average of 2516 words per hour, children in working class families heard about 1251 words per hour, and children in welfare families heard approximately 616 words per hour.  Over the course of the first three years of life, that means a difference of 30 million words, a documented gap that directly correlates with school performance.

In addition, the type of words was observed.  Children from higher income families heard 6 encouragements for every discouragement, children from working class families heard 2 encouragements for every discouragement, and children in welfare families heard 2 discouragements for every encouragements.  Added up, that results in a tragic and unnecessary gap of 560,000 encouragements in just the first three years of a child's life, further impacting school performance.

We don't need millions of dollars of educational aid.  We need millions of words. 

Talk to those babies. Most people have no idea the impact it makes.  There is no need to pass on this kind of educational handicap.  Talking to children is not limited by socio-economic factors, but simply the intention to do so.  It has been documented that the average adult watches 28 hours of television per week.  That is 28 hours of reduced adult/child interaction.  Add to that the effect of cell phones, internet and other devices.  Talk to those babies.

To help erase that unnecessary gap in school performance and teach parents how to interact, the University of Chicago has initiated a 30 million word project. (Click this link for further information)

But this subject is nothing new. The Bible speaks about a very similar Word gap.  Talk to those babies, it says in Scripture:

And these words which I command you this day
shall be upon your heart,
and you shall teach them diligently to your children,
and talk of them
when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down,
and when you rise...

                   Deuteronomy 6. 6-7

Talk to your children about the LORD when you are driving in your car, when you are walking through the park, when you are shopping at Wal-mart, and while you are cooking supper.  Conversations about God are not restricted to church but should naturally permeate every aspect of our lives together -- because that is what God intended.   In the home, children hear and see those words -- God's Word -- memorized, manifested, and modeled in how to live.

And it will change the course of their lives...and ours.

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