The Best Resources For Learning About The “Word Gap”

There has recently been a flurry of media attention to what is called the so-called “word gap.” It’s the term used to describe the difference in vocabulary development of low-income children and middle-and-high-income children during their pre-school years.

In addition to the media attention, there have been some high-profile efforts at trying to respond to the issue, and that’s where it gets particularly controversial. I thought a “Best” list here on the topic might be useful to readers:

I’d say the best piece that talks about the issue has been written by Esther Quintero at The Albert Shanker Institute. It’s titled The ‘early language gap’ is about more than words.

She followed that up by creating this short video:

Here are some of my previous posts on the topic:

Chicago Program Emphasizes Quality Of Parent/Child Interaction Key To Growth, Not Increasing Quantity Of Vocabulary

Another Reason To Wonder About Huge Parent Engagement Experiment In Providence

Could Providence’s Word Counting Project Be A “Boondoggle” As Well As Being Creepy?

Providence Wins Grant For Project That May Hold Promise, But Also Sounds A Bit Creepy

Intriguing Study Seems To Question Importance Of Word Quantity Spoken To Young Children

“Efforts To Close The Achievement Gap In Kids Start At Home”

Here are some additional resources:

Too Small To Fail is a project that Hillary Clinton has begun.

The 32-Million Word Gap is by David Shenk.

More Effective, Less Expensive, Still Controversial: Maximizing Vocabulary Growth In Early Childhood is from The Shanker Blog.

Can We Disrupt Poverty by Changing How Poor Parents Talk to Their Kids? is from The Atlantic.

We Need a Nuremberg Code for Big Data is from Slate.

Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word is an article and video from The New York Times that gives a pretty good over of research, concerns and potential strategies related to the “word gap.”

It includes discussion about the Rhode Island that’s inserting recording devices into children’s clothing, which I have previously posted about skeptically (though I’ve tried to maintain an open mind).


More non-profits teaching parents to read with children is a post at Ed Source describing programs helping parents to get their children reading early and the research behind the efforts.

“Coaching parents on toddler talk to address low-income word gap” is a pretty interesting report from the PBS News Hour.

You can see the transcript here.

Ed Source reports on a recent visit by Hillary Clinton to Oakland:

Hillary Clinton spoke to a friendly crowd at Oakland’s UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital on Wednesday about her new campaign (no, not that one) to get parents to spend more time talking, singing and reading to their young children.

“Brain research is showing us how important the first years of life are,” Clinton said, “and how much a simple activity can help build brains.”

Oakland will be the second city – the first was Tulsa, Oklahoma – to receive a concentrated dose of messaging about the importance of verbally engaging infants and toddlers. As part of the “Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing” campaign, residents can expect a multimedia campaign featuring television commercials, a radio spot, billboards and bus station ads. Local retailer Oaklandish will also be launching a new clothing line for babies that includes onesies that read, “Let’s talk about hands and feet,” and baby blankets proclaiming, “Let’s talk about bedtime.” For every item purchased, Oaklandish will donate one item to a family in need.

Importance of talking to infants now on TV is the headline of a blog post at Ed Source.

It talks about two recent TV shows that have featured the “Word Gap.”

Here’s a clip from one of them:

Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds is from The New York Times.

Poor Kids Are Starving for Words is from The Atlantic.

Stop blaming poor parents for their children’s vocabulary is a must-read article by Paul Thomas at The Conversation.

To Help Language Skills of Children, a Study Finds, Text Their Parents With Tips is the headline of a New York Times article about a new study. It found that sending text messages to parents of very young children (like “Let your child hold the book. Ask what it is about. Follow the words with your finger as you read”) were more advanced academically than those whose parents did not receive them.

I thought that was interesting, particularly since another study that I’ve posted about in my other blog where adolescent students received encouraging texts was deemed a failure (I don’t have time right now to find that link but will add it later). Perhaps parents of very young children are in a more motivated frame of mind? I wonder how this experiment would work with parents of older children?

The New Work of Words is a lengthy article in The Atlantic about…words.

I’m sharing it here because the first quarter has an interesting perspective on The Word Gap.

The New Yorker has just published what I think is probably the best article written on the “word gap.” It’s titled The Talking Cure: The poorer parents are, the less they talk with their children. The mayor of Providence is trying to close the “word gap.”

How do you make a baby smart? Word by word, a Chicago project says is the headline of an article at The Hechinger Report.

Word Gap? How About Conversation Gap? is by Wray Herbert and offers an intriguing “take” on well-known “word gap.”

Key to Vocabulary Gap Is Quality of Conversation, Not Dearth of Words is the headline of an Ed Week article by Sarah Sparks.

Here’s an excerpt:

The “30 million-word” gap is arguably the most famous but least significant part of a landmark study, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children, by the late University of Kansas child psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. As the work turns 20 this year, new research and more advanced measuring techniques have cast new light on long-overshadowed, and more nuanced, findings about exactly how adult interactions with infants and young children shape their early language development.

Back-and-forth exchanges boost children’s brain response to language is from Science Daily.

Does The “Word Gap” Really Exist?

Let’s Stop Talking About The ’30 Million Word Gap’ is from NPR.

It’s time to move beyond the word gap is from Brookings.

The “Debunking” of Hart & Risley and How We Use Science is by Daniel Willingham.

Asked About Race, Biden Talked Record Players. Here’s a Quick Primer on the ‘Word Gap’ is from Ed Week.

Researchers gather interventions addressing ‘word gap’ into special edition of journal is from Eureka Alert.

New Research Ignites Debate on the ‘30 Million Word Gap’ appeared in Edutopia.

The Word Gap – A Reader is from Paul Thomas.

You can see all my parent-related “Best” lists at A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Parent Engagement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *