The conversation on reducing the “word gap” in early childhoodhas reached new heights: Today the White House Office on Science and Technology is hosting a group of policymakers, researchers, and early childhood advocates to exchange ideas on how to help foster language development. The event is titled “Federal, State and Local Efforts to Bridge the Word Gap: Sharing Best Practices and Lessons Learned.”
Those of you who follow our blog posts and analysis for Seeding Reading, a joint project of New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, know that this is an issue close to our hearts. Our Seeding Reading project is tackling the question of how children learn language and literacy skills in an age of digital technology. The prevalence of digital media today is often seen as an obstacle to promoting rich early literacy experiences for children, with warnings from pediatricians to set strict limits on screen time for young children.
Yet early childhood leaders are starting to test whether one can harness the power of technology to raise the level of engagement for all children and their caregivers. They are prompted, in many cases, by studies revealing that many children in low-income families have heard far fewer words than their classmates by the time they enter kindergarten. This disadvantage can lead to further disparities in academic achievement and future success over time.