Solving the “word deficit”
What’s holding back low-income students in our education system? Steven F. Wilson, founder of a network of charter schools for low-income communities in Brooklyn, says the problem lies with a “word deficit.” Simply put, many children aren’t hearing enough words by ages 3 and 4.
The word deficit is alarmingly large in many children: 32 million words, according to one often-cited study. That’s how many words many children from low-income families lacked compared to their better-off peers by age 4. And the quality and complexity of the words varied, too, according to the study’s authors, who over three years monitored all the words children from 42 families encountered in the early years.
Now experts in child development think that the word gap may be one of the chief factors holding some children from low-income families back. The differences in vocabularies is certainly enough to show the importance of reading to children at an early age. People often don’t think of the importance of the first few years when it comes to reforming education, but studies like this show that early care and education may be our best shot at improving results and reducing inequality.