The Million-Word Gap Before Kindergarten

Highlights Let's Grow

A recent study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics supports regular reading to young children as a key component of their language and cognitive development. The study found that children who are read to five times a day found that children who are read to five times a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million words. It also found that children who are never or seldomly read to enter kindergarten having only heard roughly 4,622 words, a million words less than frequent readers. These staggering numbers could be key, researchers say, to understanding differences in reading development and vocabulary.

"Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school," said Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University.

"They are likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily.”

Logan speech at Highlights
In March, Logan talked with the Highlights International team about the million-word gap at our annual meeting

The years between 0 and 5 are crucial to a child’s cognitive development, which is why being read to is critically important during this window. When babies are read to, it develops their ability to recognize sounds, letters, and words. It also creates a strong parent-child bond and plants a seed that grows a child’s love of reading and learning. The Let’s Grow box is designed to build vocabulary and language skills and foster a love of reading. It provides parents with an easy way to add thousands of words to their child’s growing vocabulary.

The 24-book set develops vocabulary and encourages little ones to go and grow as they explore their world. The books are themed around topics like mealtime, bathtime, and naptime, and create new moments of discovery in a toddler’s everyday world. It’s easy to turn a simple visit to the supermarket into a fun learning adventure with Let’s Grow. The stories promote conversation and for each book, there is an accompanying parent guide with activities that encourage children to look, listen, and learn when they’re out and about helps to lessen that million-word gap.

A welcoming environment encourages discussion about storylines and illustrations, providing access to unique or complex words. When children feel safe and comfortable, conversations flourish and they can express how they are feeling. To promote a warm and enjoyable reading experience, the Let’s Grow box features 25 videos, created by childhood experts at Highlights, that offer activity ideas, songs, and chants from High Five editor Meghan Dombrink-Green. Songs and chants present word play and reinforcement of essential language elements in a fun and interactive way. The tips included in the videos extend learning and help children develop social-emotional skills.

Regular song and story time will help grow a child’s love of reading. This reading habit combined with experiential learning will combat the million-word gap and set them on a path for success. Discover more about the Let’s Grow Library here.  

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