How many words do you use each day?  

I know what you're thinking - who in their right mind would bother counting the words they speak?  But that is exactly what a team of researchers did - and they think disparity they found between the number of words spoken in poor households versus the number spoken in rich households might set poorer kids up for a lifetime of disadvantages.

For the study, researchers followed about 40 families - some rich, some middle class, and some poor.  Every month, the researchers collected an hour of sound from the families' homes and then counted every word that was spoken over the course of that hour.  Every word.  What they found is a difference they termed the 'word gap,' whereby richer kids were exposed to 30 million more words in their first three years of life when compared to poorer children.  30 million! That's a lot of words.

And the disparity doesn't end there.  Further research has found that this 'word gap' creates compounding differences in a child's ability to succeed at school.  

So how do you close the gap?  Researchers are working on a number of projects - one of which is to give families small devices for a kid to wear that are essentially word pedometers tracking the number of words a child hears and speaks each day.  

But the biggest initiative is simply to make all families aware of how important it is to talk to their young children - even if they don't answer back (trust me, it's much easier to talk to kids before they start answering back anyhow.)  And no, plopping them in front of the TV or letting them listen in on your conversations with other adults won't cut it.  You actually need to talk to your babies and toddlers - about what you see along the drive, which brand of pasta you plan to buy, or what shapes and colors you can see in the bathtub.  

Every word you say to your child helps build their brain and their vocabulary and sets them up to succeed in school and in life.

Related posts on MNN:

via: NPR
'Word gap' widens the difference between rich and poor
Researchers find that the number of words poorer kids hear each day might put them at a disadvantage when compared to their more affluent peers.