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The 30 Million Word Gap

After decades of collaborating to increase child language vocabulary, Betty Hart and Todd Risley spent 2 1/2 years intensely observing the language of 42 families throughout Kansas City. Specifically, they looked at household language use in three different settings: 1) professional families; 2) working class; 3) welfare families. Hart and Risley gathered an enormous amount of data during the study and subsequent longitudinal follow-ups to come up with an often cited 30 million word gap between the vocabularies of welfare and professional families by age three. This number came from the data that showed welfare children heard, on average, 616 words per hour, while children from professional families (essentially children with college educated parents) heard 2153 words per hour. The longitudinal research in the following years demonstrated a high correlation between vocabulary size at age three and language test scores at ages nine and ten in areas of vocabulary, listening, syntax, and reading comprehension.

Children’s brains are wired to take in the words that are often repeated.  Opportunities to present vocabulary can be maximised in the most natural settings.  Unloading the groceries, preparing dinner, setting up the table, going to the bank… Parents, teachers, caregivers, grandparents, godparents:  please talk, talk, talk!

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3 Responses to “The 30 Million Word Gap”

  1. Marcel Eavey Says:
    August 6th, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Excellent web site! I actually put up a comment about two days earlier to see if you had a flickr profile?

  2. LV Outlet Says:
    October 13th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks you for sharing and may you have many thought provoking conversations!

  3. Albert Says:
    February 16th, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for sharing . Great site!!

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