Book Nooks: Closing the Million-Word Gap
The heat of the attic overwhelmed me. Memories did, too. Tucked in plastic totes were myriad books we had read to our kids. Fun books like Dr. Seuss’s “Hop on Pop” or Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” mixed in with deeper stories like “Snow Treasure” and “The Secret Garden.” Of course, series such as “The Great Brain” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” were there too. Every one of these books had been enjoyed multiple times during family reading and quiet personal time.
Early on in our home we began family reading. My husband and I were both readers. We had no big goals beyond sharing books with our kids. For us, reading was part of joy, discovery and leisure. What we didn’t know then was, we were “Million-Word Gap” closers.
In a 2019 study, the Journal of Developmental and Pediatric Behaviors found 25% of caregivers never read to their children. This lack of one-on-one reading is leading to a learning crisis called the “million-word gap.” In short, many children under the age of five are 1.4 million words deficient by the time they start school.
This gap in learning carries over into every other area of study. G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D. states, “Reading skill serves as the major avenue to learning about other people, about history and social studies, the language arts, science, mathematics, and the other content subjects that must be mastered in school. When children do not learn to read, their general knowledge, their spelling and writing abilities and their vocabulary suffer in kind. Reading skill serves as the major foundational skill for all school-based learning, and without it, the chances for academic and occupational success are limited indeed.”
Today, reading aloud to kids is a diminishing art. With that loss comes a greater concern: loss of diverse learning. The good news is that this gap can be closed. Much like adding nutrition to a diet, some simple changes to daily life can kick-start a healthy reading habit and increase a lifetime of learning. A few simple tricks can turn on the tap of family reading enjoyment.
To read the rest of this article, pick up a copy of the January 2020 issue at any of these locations, or view the digital archive copy below.