Learning to read is harder than you think

How many words have you learned today?General Facts

  • Children in first and second grade need to be learning 800 words a year or 2 a day
  • Children in grades 3 through 8 need to learn 2 to 3 thousand words a year or 6 to 8 words a day
  • The achievement gap first occurs at a very young age. At age 3, high socioeconomic status children have average vocabularies of 1,100 words, whereas low socioeconomic status children have average vocabularies of 480 words.

Number of words heard by the age of 3:

  • children in Low-income homes - 10 million
  • children in Middle-income homes - 20 million
  • children in High-income homes - 30 million

If language starts in the crib, as shared Monday, it means we need to create an environment where babies feel physically safe so they can open themselves up to receiving the tenderness of language and communication. Children not only learn new language, they are learning how to receive…feeling the trust that radiates through the environment. Trust and receiving language go hand and hand.

We make a difference in the environment: Children in environments that are inviting and containing, in families that talk to each other and read, are much better at discriminating language and sounds. Environments that are filled with toxic stress inhibit a child’s ability to receive language. The quality of language is diminished. Language is heard in a fragmented manner without the sound bridges that are invitational.

Research states that children who live in poverty are expose to 30 to 40 million fewer utterances than children reared in a professional home. The quality and richness of language is less, affirmations of children are less, and interactions are more directive and negative than in homes of families with professional careers.

What happens when children do not have a language rich environment at home?  If children are not surrounded with positive language and literacy experiences (such as snuggling up and being read to, even as infants), they are in danger of losing the ability to develop language and literacy skills.

Children of low-income families often live in a language-deprived environment that causes them to fall behind their more affluent peers, even before they enter kindergarten.  Although some remediation is possible in later years, it comes at a high cost.

Creating an environment that fosters future readers:

  • Critical ingredients - Lap time, eye contact, and tender voice quality for and with all ages
  • Be an appropriate role model...read!
  • Provide a rich language environment
  • Develop a robust vocabulary
  • Enunciate to support phonetic awareness
  • Play rhyming word games
  • Ritualze reading times
  • Impromptu reading - Drop everything and read!
  • Reading environmental print...signs, advertisements whereveryou go.

All of the above are integrated in the relationship you develop with your child. Strong relationships facilitate strong language development which enables children to be ready to learn to read by kindergarten. 

Post by Stephen Zwolak

Steph SmithComment