Thanks Mom!


This is my mom… a few years ago :).

Go read this article from the NYT… go, read it!

The story discusses a study that says that the number of words a child is exposed to by the age of 4 makes a huge difference in overall vocabulary and academic achievement.  The most astounding difference was that children of poor/undereducated parents are exposed to 1,500 FEWER words PER HOUR than children of affluent / educated parents. By the time the child is 4 years old, the word gap is 32 MILLION words.

I think it’s important to note that I adjusted the paraphrasing above to make a distinction between wealth and education — because my parents were educated but not affluent.

To say that I was “exposed to words” by my articulate mom is quite the understatement.  Growing up, I was read to — until I could read.  Then I was taken to the library and told that I could only check out as many books as I could carry :).

Thanks to mom I have an outstanding verbal SAT score (if only the math had kept up… le sigh).  Before I finished by BA, a former boss at a phone center job told me that I “use a lot of words”…  and  I ended up as a Ph.D. using words to make a living.  I’m guessing I didn’t suffer from a word gap.

Thanks mom!

I think the bigger point to be made here is that improving education starts from the earliest times in a child’s life.  Breaking the cycle of poverty takes generations.  Improving early childhood education is one huge step — which would include paying childcare workers a decent salary so unemployed folks with a good education — like recent law school graduates — would be able to work with low-income kids who aren’t exposed to lots of words at home.  When they grow up, their children will be exposed to more words because their parents won’t have a word deficit that started when they were very young.

This also makes me hopeful for the children of my students — because many of my students are the first in their families to go to college… and their kids won’t have a word deficit if I can help it :).



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