Not every child is exposed to a rich language environment.

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Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 5.19.15 PM.pngChildren from low-income families hear approximately 600 words every hour, whereas children from higher-income families hear approximately 2,000 words an hour. This 30 million word gap leads to dramatic differences in vocabularies of 18 month old children, which increase significantly between 18 months and 24 months. 

  1. Children from impoverished environments may experience pronounced disparities in cognition, academic performance, IQ and school readiness early on that persist throughout the child’s lifetime. This inequality may be attributable to a large disparity in children’s early-language environments.
  2. Children from low-income families hear approximately 600 words every hour, whereas children from higher-income families hear 2,000 words an hour. Throughout the course of three years, this accumulates into a 30 million word gap between low income children and children from higher-income families. This 30 million word gap contributes to the stark disparities in academic performance and is influenced by a generational lack of access to education and language nutrition.
  3. Differences in early language environments lead to dramatic differences in vocabularies of 18 month-old children, which increase significantly between 18 months and 24 months. 
  4. Children who have heard fewer words since birth, are likely to know fewer words and have a less diverse vocabulary by age three.
  5. Children who are ill-prepared to start school are often unable to catch up, and thus, the achievement gap widens. Educational researcher Gloria Landson-Billings suggests that the achievement gap leads to an “educational debt” (analogous to the concept of a “national debt”), at the core of which is a generational lack of access to quality education. This “educational debt” becomes a cyclical process that brings socioeconomic co-morbidities such as illiteracy, under- or unemployment, health and behavioral issues and poverty.

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Bridging the Word Gap

The relationship between socioeconomic status and the word gap may be mediated by parents’ knowledge of child development. Knowledge about child development and how to support it seems to predict the frequency and quality of a parent’s communication with her child more than income or level of parent education. Therefore, efforts must be made to bridge the 30 million word gap, narrow the achievement gap and foster educational success for all children, regardless of the family’s socioeconomic status. Empowered Education and GoMo Health aim to help build that bridge.

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How Reading to Children Impacts Their Lives.

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“The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.
 I sat there with Sally. We sat there, we two.
And I said, ‘How I wish we had something to do!’”

These are the immortal opening lines from Dr. Seuss’ classic book, The Cat in the HatHaving read these lines thousands of times to my three children, at one time I had virtually the whole book memorized! I used to love reading and rereading the story of the mischievous feline, doing voices and intonations and asking questions as I went along. Of course, the major question is, “would you have let the cat into the house?” Reading The Cat in the Hat was clearly as much fun for me as it was for my kids and now my grandkids.

The value of reading to young children cannot be overemphasized. Many studies over the past 20 years show that spending time reading to preschool children is vital for boosting low-income children’s vocabularies, language development, sound awareness, and letter recognition abilities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics data, only 20 percent of 4-year-olds in poverty can recognize all 26 letters, compared with 37 percent of their peers at or above the poverty level.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children introduced to reading early in life tend to read earlier and excel in school compared to children who are not exposed to language and books at a young age. Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to learn to read. Children who enter school with these skills have an advantage that carries with them throughout their school years. However, more than 1 in 3 American children enter Kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read.

Unfortunately, the ability to meaningfully read to children is not an innate talent. “Everyone feels like they know how to read a book to children,” says Karen Stoiber, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, “but in reality, many parents and teachers need coaching on how to ask questions as they go along to emphasize rhyming and to teach children how to follow words on the page.” Indeed, the process of coaching parents to help their child’s cognitive development should be part of a comprehensive educational process beginning in the prenatal period. Learning how to read to your child is an important part of this process.

One effective method for coaching parents in literacy development is Educare. EduCare is a maternal and child health program designed exclusively for health, language and literacy development. The solution delivers personalized guidance via mobile device to women or caregivers throughout pregnancy and baby’s early childhood through age 8.

Along with literacy development, EduCare also guides mom in:

  • Learning progression
  • Physical health
  • Psychological wellness
  • Emotional support
  • Social skills and peer engagement

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To learn more about EduCare visit: http://www.gomohealth.com/educare/

End of the lullaby as younger parents eschew the bedtime ritual, survey finds.

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I just read an article in the Telegraph by Camilla Turner that amazed me. She wrote, “It may once have been seen by parents as a staple of the bedtime regime – but now it seems that lullabies are falling out of favour as younger parents eschew the ritual.”  

Just over a third (38 per cent) of parents sing lullabies to their children aged under five, according to a YouGov poll of over 2,000 adults.  

But the vast majority – 70 per cent – of those who sing lullabies are aged over 45-years-old, suggesting that the practice is less popular with younger parents. Maybe that explains my shock as I am a grand parent now and would still sing to my grandchildren.

The poll shows that women are more than twice as likely to sing to their children every night than men.

Research carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital has previously shown that lullabies help to make children feel better.  

They sang the songs to a group of children under three, some of whom were waiting for heart transplants, and monitored their heart rates and pain perception.  

Results of the study, published by the journal Psychology of Music, showed that a group of child patients at the hospital experienced lower heart rates, less anxiety and reduced perception of pain after they had lullabies sung to them.  

A separate study, published by the National Literacy Trust last year, found that singing songs and rhymes with your baby and young child support language development and reading skills by encouraging children to listen carefully to predict.

Laura Jane-Foley, a soprano singer and ambassador for the Lullaby Trust which aims to prevent unexpected deaths in infancy and promote infant health, said: “Singing to children is just as important as reading to them.

“The musical three R’s of rhythm, rhyming and repetition are crucial to a child’s mental and emotional development and, by participating in the shared activity of singing, parents are strengthening the bonds between parent and child.”

I am preparing to work on two early childhood literacy programs within NICU units. Hopefully we will gain some insights there as well. Find out more about the power of singing to infants at http://www.talkwithmebaby.org.

Here is a classic in case you need a prompt.

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The trajectory of a child’s life can be changed if parents know how to deliver “Language Nutrition.”

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An alarming number of  children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade.  This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole. If left unchecked, this problem will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close the achievement gap, and reduce high school dropout rates.  Far fewer of the next generation will be prepared to succeed in a global economy, participate in higher education, or enter military and civilian service.

EduCare was created to help reverse this potentially catastrophic trend by delivering common-sense solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.

EduCare is an interactive program that delivers personalized guidance to women and caregivers throughout their pregnancy and baby’s early childhood up to age 8. With no application to download, EduCare acts as a virtual coach for moms and families. The platform provides age-specific guidance to care for baby and encourage physical and emotional health and wellness, and “Language Nutrition” to support nurturing of literacy and brain development.

Early childhood development is our unifying goal; supporting community solutions to address lack of school readiness and helping parents succeed in their critical roles as first teachers and best advocates.

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