Do you ever think about how many different words your children hear on a daily basis? How about how many different words you were exposed to in early childhood — even before ages three or four? Can something so simple really influence the minds of young children in a significant way? Absolutely.
In charter schools that serve poor communities in Brooklyn, Steven F. Wilson, who founded the schools, says that the number one challenge for incoming kindergarten students each year is “word deficit” (NYT). The parents of poor children not only use less complex language than more affluent parents, they also use far fewer words. In fact, the deficit is so large that it is estimated there may be gaps of 32 million words between children at different socioeconomic levels by age four.
The benefit of words
How can simply listening to different words prepare children for school and life in the workforce? Communicating with young children using complex or challenging words stretches their minds. They not only become familiar with more complex language, but are more comfortable with intellectual challenges and unfamiliar concepts, skills that will serve them well later in life.
Wilson’s experience in the classroom has shown that by the time kids hit kindergarten, they may already be falling behind. Early childhood education, especially pre-school, may be more important than anyone thought, especially for language development and reading comprehension. And these kids are coming in behind their peers through no fault of their own. They aren’t lazy, disobedient, or less intelligent. They just haven’t been exposed to enough words.
Photo credit: edenpictures
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