They’re the foundation of every language andthe glue that holds together cultures. Words are the fabric of the relationships that stitch people together, and the oldest vessel for communication. Written words have been used in every civilization. They were flawlessly stitched together when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his legendary ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during the March on Washington in 1963, and methodically pasted one to another when Maya Angelou wrote her famous poem Still I Rise. But words can do much more than just inspire social change and empower individuals through linguistic intricacy. Words can create divides more than 30 million units wide.
THE WORD GAP.
According to Drs. Hart and Risley, on average, children from high income families hear 2,100 words per hour. Children from working class families hear 1,200 words; almost half as many. Children from families dependent on welfare hear on average of just 600 words per hour. By age 3, before this child has even entered kindergarten, he or she will have heard 30 million less words compared to a child from a wealthy family. This is what we call the word gap.
THE IMPACT OF WORDS.
Children 30 million words behind their contemporaries are more likely to show up on the first day of school, ill equipped in math and reading skills. This disadvantage is likely to persist for a lifetime, as students deemed to be more prepared for school at five years old will have greater success throughout their grade school years, be more likely to graduate from high school and earn more throughout their careers, according to the Brookings Institution.
Regardless of economic class, reading to a young child is a must. It’s an easy, accessible and inexpensive way to exponentially increase a child’s exposure to words and give them the advantage they need for a lifetime of success. It’s never too soon to start; children who were read to as newborns enjoy a larger vocabulary and more advanced math skills when compared to kids who weren’t read to in the first months of life, according to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Though a newborn definitely won’t have a clue about what those powerful little things called ‘words’ coming out of your mouth actually mean, he’ll still be thankful for them later.