Children experience rapid brain development only once – between birth and age five. What happens in this window can shape the rest of their lives. These little brains need constant input from adults … in the form of talk and then oral storytelling to prepare their brains for what’s ahead.
And, it’s not just the big words or the quality of the words … it’s the quantity and repetition. Multiple exposures to words and in different contexts are what pave the way for understanding, remembering and using language. As children grow, a strong vocabulary allows them to more easily follow instructions, express their feelings when they’re frustrated, read proficiently, and develop critical thinking skills.
Here’s what researchers have found:
Comprehension — Kids need to understand 98 percent of the words they read to understand what they are reading.
Thinking — Children who develop a rich vocabulary tend to be deeper thinkers, express themselves better and read more.
Communication – The ability to say what you mean depends on a good vocabulary base. Children who have a large vocabulary are more effective communicators.
Writing – How something is phrased can vary greatly between the written and spoken word. Children who have learned these nuances are better writers.
Occupational Success — Researcher Johnson O’Connor found that “a person’s vocabulary level is the best single predictor of occupational success.”
Many parents, especially those in low-income households, may not realize that exposure to language is an essential building block for long-term success. Yet, research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an eight-month-old, the greater the child’s vocabulary at age three. Yet in low-income families children hear as many as 30 million fewer words in that same time span.
So, mom and dad, verbally interact with your children. It’s time to dust off kids’ all-time favorites like “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Goodnight Moon,” pull them up in your lap and read aloud. You might get tired of reading the same old story, but kids never do. Even on the tenth or twentieth reading, remember, you’re preparing tomorrow’s scientist, doctor, or journalist.
Hat’s off to many of our grantees – like award-winning Reach Out and Read — that make sure children from households of all incomes are equally ready to enter school and step off on the right foot.