Big Vocabulary Equals Kindergarten Readiness?

September 2017

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 that children who knew more words at age two not only had stronger reading skills when they started school, but were better at math and in other subjects.

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 age 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 environments 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. 

Spanish Translation

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Pedirle a su niño que use palabras para comunicarse, pudiese estar preparándolo para un prescolar exitoso. Investigadores encontraron que los niños que sabían más palabras a los dos años, no solamente tenían mejores habilidades de lectura al comenzar la escuela, pero también eran mejores en las matemáticas y otras materias.

Con solo 6 años, a Davis Patterson le encanta leer.

Su madre, Ashley, le comenzó a leer desde antes de nacer.  Investigadores estudiaron un grupo, a nivel nacional, de 8.700 niños a quienes se les midió su vocabulario a los dos años. Aquellos que usaban más palabras a esta edad, tuvieron mejores habilidades en matemáticas y lectura. También, tuvieron menos problemas de comportamiento al comenzar preescolar.

Los investigadores también identificaron los factores asociados con un vocabulario menos amplio, estos incluyeron menos participación de los padres y desafíos que tienen las familias de bajos ingresos. Los expertos dicen que los padres deben leer, preguntar, y hablar regularmente a sus niños, sobre cualquier actividad común. Cuando sea posible, inscriba a su niño en una escuela en la cual el maestro tenga pocos estudiantes en la clase, así cada niño tendrá más atención individual.

Desde muy pequeños las intervenciones pueden fortalecer el vocabulario de un niño. Y ayúdelos a que comiencen la escuela bien preparados.

Es importante que las conversaciones sean divertidas e interactivas, no solo se enfoque en el número de palabras nuevas que el niño puede o deba usar. La investigación fue publicada en la revista de Child Development.

Los contribuyentes a este reportaje incluyen: Cyndy McGrath, Supervisora y Productora de Campo; Milvionne Chery, Productora Assistente; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Camarografo.

Producido por Child Trends News Service en asocio con Ivanhoe Broadcast News y auspiciado por una beca de la National Science Foundation.