At 16-18 months, when children begin amassing vocabulary, word learning is significantly affected by economic background.

The first words your child learns will almost certainly be labels-nouns, animals, or other things he encounters in his world. At 18 months, though it may happen a bit sooner or later- your toddler will experience what experts call a “language explosion”. The bubbling-over point when he’s banking as many as 10 new words a day and improving his receptive language skills at an even faster pace than before. By 16 months, it’s abundantly clear that your child understands most of what you say. This ability to grasp spoken language-is the first crucial step towards the gift of gab. Your baby has been honing his receptive language skills since he heard the sound of your voice when he was in the womb.

But in recent times there has been growing concerns about the “vocabulary gap” widening between children from different socioeconomic groups. By three, it is believed that children growing up in lower-income families may hear up to 30 million fewer words than their more privileged counterparts. The two factors that most explain the income-related gaps and school readiness are parenting styles and home learning environments. This is actually good news because it means that if we can better equip parents with the knowledge and tools to succeed as their children’s first teachers- and mobilize them to act on that knowledge and use those tools, we could see a significant decline in both the vocabulary and school readiness gap.

Researchers believe that low-income parents may underestimate by as much as 50 percent the impact that they can have on improving their child’s vocabulary and cognitive development.

This is why it’s so important to get this message out there and to offer simple ways that parents from every socioeconomic background can strive to shrink the vocabulary gap. When parents understand the long-term benefits of investing time in a child’s vocabulary, the more time they invest. Which is the most effective way to close the word gap.

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