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You may have heard of the "word gap" study, which found that by the time kids turn 3, there is a 30-million-word gap between children from the poorest families and those from the wealthiest families. Recently, the study drew some backlash; some said its sample size was too small (42 families) and that the findings put too much emphasis on families and not enough on schools.
That said, no matter what a family's income level, parents play a big role in helping children develop language skills. Building language and literacy skills helps set kids up for reading success. But how can you help your young child? Start with three simple research-backed suggestions: Talk a lot, read a lot, and rhyme a lot.
Talk a lot
The best way to increase your child's vocabulary is by talking to them. No need to use simple words or baby talk. In fact, talking to your baby as you would speak to an adult is a great way to encourage language development from birth. For preverbal kids, narrate what you are doing as you interact with them (“Now we are going to get buckled up in the car seat”). As babies start to develop language skills, hold “conversations” with them, allowing them time to babble and then responding.
Read a lot
No matter what age your child is, reading a lot is a worthwhile and enjoyable pursuit. Research shows that when you read to young kids daily, they get a million-word boost by the time they start kindergarten. As your child gets older, start to talk about what you read. Ask your child to predict what might happen next, share your favorite parts of stories, and make connections between stories in books and your own lives. Above all, make reading together a time to look forward to.
Rhyme a lot
Nursery rhymes are a childhood tradition for a reason. Rhyming may be silly and fun, but it's also a great way to help kids tune into the sounds of words. Though you might not be directly teaching your toddler about different sounds, playing with rhymes helps your child begin to compare and contrast words and sounds. Try reading rhyming poems, singing rhyming songs, or simply listing rhyming words (older kids will love to help with this too).
Learn more about speech and language development here.
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