Big vocabularies benefit kids in all subjects

WIFR

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- When you prompt your toddler to use his or her words, could you be prepping your child for kindergarten success? Researchers found children who knew more words at age two not only had stronger reading skills when they started school, but were better at math and more.

Six-year-old Davis Patterson loves to read and he’s good at it. Mom, Ashley, has been reading to Davis since before he was born and she says from eighteen months on, Davis has been able to talk.

“He’s able to be fairly clear about the things he wants,” Ashley told Ivanhoe.

Marianne Hillemeier, PhD, a professor of health policy and administration and demography at Penn State University and her colleagues looked at a nationwide sample of 8,700 children, whose vocabularies were measured at two years of age. Those who used more words at two had better math and reading skills and fewer behavioral problems when starting kindergarten.

“Theories are that if children can express themselves more fluently and completely then there is less frustration,” explained Hillemeier.

Researchers also identified factors that are associated with smaller vocabularies including less parental involvement and the challenges that low income families experience.

Hillemeier said, “Children who are raised in poverty environment sometimes don’t have exposure to some of the learning materials and other things that can help with vocabulary development.”

Experts say parents don’t need shelves full of expensive books. Instead read, ask questions, and talk regularly to your child about everyday activities.

When possible, enroll kids in preschools with lower child to teacher ratios so children have more individual attention. These are early interventions that can strengthen a child’s word knowledge and help them start school on an even playing field.

Professor Hillemeier said it’s important for parents to make their conversations fun and interactive and not to focus only on the number of new words they are hoping their child picks up. The research is published in the journal Child Development.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.