From Dialogue About Language, Literacy and Learning
We have a long history of research that tells us that children who enter Kindergarten behind their peers in language skills, particularly vocabulary skills, will be at a great educational disadvantage and often will not catch up for many years, if at all. This is still another indicator that “We can’t wait” until 3rd grade to decide that children are behind and need to catch up.
One of the first studies on the “achievement gap” that I read has had a great influence on my work and teaching of courses in “Language and Learning” and “Reading Comprehension”. In 1976 NCTE published a monograph titled Language Development, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve by Walter Loban. Loban reported on a study where Loban (and his team) followed a group of 211 students who differed in sex, ethnic background, socioeconomic status and spread of intellectual abilities. Data were provided on 3 subgroups of children described as high functioning, low functioning, and mixed (high and low functioning) based on a range of listening, speaking, reading and writing measures along with teacher ratings every year of the amount of language, quality of vocabulary, skill in communication, organization, purpose and control of language, wealth of ideas, and quality of listening. Loban’s most telling finding was that “those superior in oral language in kindergarten and grade one before they learned to read and write are the very ones who excel in reading and writing by the time they are in grade six.
A second influential group of studies looked at vocabulary specifically and the differences in achievement, even at the preschool level.
The Hart and Risley Study (The Matthew Effect)
The Thirty Million Word Gap
“In this ground breaking study, Betty Hart and Todd Risley entered the homes of 42 families from various socio-economic backgrounds to assess the ways in which daily exchanges between a parent and child shape language and vocabulary development. Their findings were unprecedented, with extraordinary disparities between the sheer number of words spoken as well as the types of messages conveyed. After four years these differences in parent-child interactions produced significant discrepancies in not only children’s knowledge, but also their skills and experiences with children from high-income families being exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. Follow-up studies showed that these differences in language and interaction experiences have lasting effects on a child’s performance later in life.”
See other resources from the Rice center for education: the OWL Lab in Action (Videos) (Oral and Written Language Laboratory for preK students)