We first learned about “The Word Gap” in the famous 1995 study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley entitled “The Early Catastrophe”. The results of their research indicated that low income babies and toddlers are exposed to 30,000 fewer words than their higher income peers by age 3.
This gap in vocabulary reaps havoc on overall language ability and ultimately, future literacy and learning skills.
To boot, we are rapidly becoming a “screen-society.” Look around your local park or a restaurant and you will find toddlers on devices. There are certainly benefits to educational and learning apps, but they do not even hold a candle to the effectiveness of adult interaction.
In addition to talking and interacting with toddlers regularly, engaging in a shared story time and reading to your child daily are essential for language, speech, learning, and literacy development.
There is a heck-of-a-lot to risk otherwise!
Speech & language benefits of reading to your child regularly
1. Promotes vocabulary growth and strengthens existing vocabulary
2. Introduces literature and story elements (characters, setting, conflict, etc.)
3. Introduces phonological skills such as rhyming
4. Provides children with a model for proper use of pitch, inflection, and volume to emphasize the meaning of words and phrases.
Parent tips & guidelines to reading to your child
– Creating a story-telling ritual is very important in preparing your child to listen and engage in conversation.
2. Child involvement is key
– It is important to engage the child in the story and allow them to actively participate. This could be as simple and engaging in early literacy skills (turning pages, pointing to words, etc.) or answering questions about the story the ensure comprehension.
3. Use repetitive and predictable stories
– This will allow children to easily follow the story, repeat newly learned words or phrases, and emphasize rhyming words.
4. Change inflection, pitch and volume
Use these changes to indicate the tone of the character and story, highlight the character’s feelings and emotions, and maintain your child’s interest.
The beauty of story-telling is that it requires little to no materials! You can create a story using you and your child’s imagination, or read a favorite book.
Here are some book suggestions that are easy to implement the tips and guidelines above:
1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?
2. Very Hungry Caterpillar
3. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
Katie Sinclair, SLP