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White House Word Gap Event to Share Research, Best Practices Among National Experts and Advocates with Aim to Close Word Gap

Too Small to Fail Announces Support to Assist Communities in Building and Growing Local Campaigns to Close the Word Gap, Federal Agencies Announce Public-Private Actions

On Twitter: #BridgetheWordGap

Washington D.C.—From Oakland to Providence, Chicago to Atlanta, communities across the country are taking bold steps to help close the word gap. At a White House event today, Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative between Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, joined the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Urban Institute, U.S. Department of Education, and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to highlight the ways that communities across the country are tackling this serious but solvable challenge. At the all-day event titled “Bridging the Word Gap”, more than 100 federal agency representatives, early childhood advocates, pediatricians, foundation representatives, federal agency representatives and local government officials will meet to share new research, resources and advice for other localities that want to engage this issue.

In addition to panel presentations and discussions led by national experts on the subject, several announcements are also expected today. Too Small to Fail will announce plans to offer a number of key opportunities for stakeholders working on local word gap initiatives. In 2015, Too Small to Fail will convene leaders in cities with burgeoning or ongoing word gap campaigns to share and inspire ideas, and will provide capacity-building webinars on how to develop and bolster these campaigns. Too Small to Fail will also make available a road map and a number of strategic resources based on campaigns developed in the Too Small to Fail pilot cities of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oakland, California, including information on how to create a public awareness campaign, parent education tools, community partnerships, implementation and evaluation for interested localities that want to adapt word gap campaigns to meet local needs.

Too Small to Fail will also partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Administration of Children and Families and the Centers for Disease Control), and the U.S. Department of Education (Office of Early Learning, Office of English Language Acquisition and the Office of Special Education Program) to develop a suite of resources that provides basic information on bridging the word gap to families with diverse backgrounds, and to child care providers. The resources will include information about creating language-rich environments, factsheets about young English and dual language learners, information about children with speech or language delays, and documents outlining ways to access quality early learning that can extend learning and development before kindergarten.  These materials will be disseminated through federal networks, including Head Start centers and WIC offices throughout the country.

Federal announcements include an effort to encourage pediatricians to work with public libraries and museums to inspire early learning in states across the country; and, a $2 million study on dual language learners to be managed by the National Academy of Sciences. Additionally, HHS will announce plans to establish a national research network, led by the University of Kansas, as well as an incentive prize to spur innovative, technologically-based solutions that will encourage parents and caregivers to communicate more with their children.

The word gap refers to the disparity in words that children living in low-income families hear and learn compared to those in high-income families. Children in low-income families hear up to 30 million fewer words by age four than those in higher-income families. This lack of hearing words translates into difficulty in learning words. Children who enter school with smaller vocabularies are more likely to fall behind; this achievement gap often persists through childhood and has lifelong implications for success, health and well-being. But research has shown that parents and caregivers can help close the word gap and the resulting achievement gap by regularly talking, reading and singing to their children beginning at birth.

Some of the conference attendees today include: Kansas City Mayor Sly James; Providence Mayor Angel Taveras; surgeon and University of Chicago professor Dr. Dana Suskind; and Dr. Anne Fernald of Stanford University. 


About Too Small to Fail

Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, aims to help parents, communities and businesses take meaningful actions to improve the health and well-being of children ages zero to five, so that more of America’s children are prepared to succeed in the 21st century. 

In 2014, Too Small to Fail is focused on closing the “word gap.” Studies have found that by age four, children in middle and upper income families hear 30 million more words than their lower income peers. This disparity in hearing words from parents and caregivers translates directly into a disparity in learning words. And that puts our children born with the fewest advantages even further behind. Among those born in 2001, only 48 percent of poor children started school ready to learn, compared to 75 percent of children from middle-income families.

The “word gap” is a significant but solvable challenge. Too Small to Fail is about parents, caregivers, other concerned individuals, and the private sector coming together to take small, research-based actions with big impacts.

Learn more at www.toosmall.org and on Twitter @2SmalltoFail.

About The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation

The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation convenes businesses, governments, NGOs, and individuals to improve global health and wellness, increase opportunity for women and girls, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opportunity and growth, and help communities address the effects of climate change.  Because of our work, 26,000 American schools are providing kids with healthy food choices in an effort to eradicate childhood obesity; 21,000 farmers in Malawi have improved their incomes by more than 500 percent; 248 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions are being reduced in cities worldwide; more than 5,000 people have been trained in marketable job skills in Colombia; more than 8.2 million people have benefited from lifesaving HIV/AIDS medications; $100 million in strategic investments have been made, impacting the health of 50 million people in the U.S.; and members of the Clinton Global Initiative have made nearly 3,100 Commitments to Action to improve more than 430 million lives around the world. Learn more at www.clintonfoundation.org, and on Twitter @ClintonFdn.

About Next Generation

Next Generation promotes solutions to two of the biggest challenges confronting the next generation of Americans:  The risk of dangerous climate change, and the threat of diminished prospects for children and families. Through the use of non-partisan research, policy development, and strategic communications, we identify strategies that help deploy clean, advanced energy technologies; we also work to ensure a level playing field from which today’s kids can build a brighter future.

Learn more at www.thenextgeneration.org, and on Twitter @nextgen_USA.

About the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

OSTP was created by Congress in 1976 to serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal government. For more information on OSTP, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp.

About Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and delivered evidence-based solutions that improve lives, strengthen communities, and increase the effectiveness of public policy. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the fiscal health of government across a rap