Reading to your kids can boost their vocabulary by over a million words!

By April 16, 2019 Language, News

Reading aloud to your child can help boost their vocabulary by 1.4 million words according to a study.

A study from the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics says parents who read to their children are not only strengthening their bond but also increasing their chances at school. The study shows that kids who are read one short book a day enter their first school years hearing almost 300,000 more words than those whose parents didn’t read to them at all. Of course when parents read more than one book the number increases again; five books per day increases their vocabulary by 1.4 million words!

Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University, calls the discrepancy between children who are read to and those who aren’t “the million word gap”.

The stark difference between one five-year-old’s vocabulary and another is almost certainly down to how much they are read to at home. Logan asserts that those who are read to even a little will find it easier learning to read by themselves:

“Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school. They are likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily.”

“The fact that we had so many parents who said they never or seldom read to their kids was pretty shocking to us. We wanted to figure out what that might mean for their kids.”

Logan and her team of researchers collaborated with the Columbus Metropolitan Library, identifying the 100 most circulated books for both board books (for infants and toddlers) and picture books (for preschoolers).

They took 30 books from both lists from random and counted how many words were in each book. They found that board books contain an average of 140 words and picture books contain an average of 228 words.

Based on further calculations based on how much the average parent interacts with and reads to their child, Logan and the researchers worked out how many words kids would have heard by the time they were 5 years old:

Never read to, 4,662 words; 1-2 times per week, 63,570 words; 3-5 times per week, 169,520 words; daily, 296,660 words; and five books a day, 1,483,300 words.

“This isn’t about everyday communication,” Logan asserted, “The words kids hear in books are going to be much more complex, difficult words than they hear just talking to their parents and others in the home. The words kids hear from books may have special importance in learning to read. Exposure to vocabulary is good for all kids. Parents can get access to books that are appropriate for their children at the local library.”

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