Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a study has found. This “million-word gap” could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development, said Jessica Logan, assistant professor at The Ohio State University in the US.
Even kids who are read only one book a day will hear about 2,90,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver.
“Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school,” said Logan, lead author of the study published in the ‘Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics’.
“They are likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily,” Logan said.
She said the idea for this research came from one of her earlier studies, which found that about one-fourth of children in a national sample were never read to and another fourth were seldom read to (once or twice weekly).
The researchers identified the 100 most circulated books for both board books (targeting infants and toddlers) and picture books (targeting preschoolers). They randomly selected 30 books and counted how many words were in each book. They found that board books contained an average of 140 words, while picture books contained an average of 228 words.
With that information, the researchers calculated how many words a child would hear from birth through his or her 5th birthday. Kids who have never been read to would have heard 4,662 words by the time they were 5. Those who are read five books a day, hear 1,483,300 words. “The word gap of more than 1 million words is striking,” Logan said.