An effort to close the word gap that exists between children of low income families and more affluent children by the age of three has resulted in Spanish speaking parents boosting early childhood development with activities they have learned in a new class.
At Northstar Mona Moede Early Childhood Center in North Minneapolis, a small group of families are being more intentional about increasing the vocabulary rich interactions in their daily parenting routines. They are Spanish speaking, and the activities are done in Spanish.
The activities include conversations, or interactive bedtime stories, and are shown to dramatically increase a child’s vocabulary, which gives them an advantage upon entering kindergarten.
Parents will start singing, reading and speaking more with the young ones. They also have a textbook, an instructor, and a recording device that is worn by the baby or toddler on a vest for 16 hours once a week.
Once the child’s speech patterns are recorded for a full day along with conversation and noise the child encounters, the coach can analyze the results with the parents and show them simple ways to enhance child language.
“The thing about the word gap and this program is we aren’t asking parents to change the words they’re using with their children. We’re not asking them to change the language culture in their home,” said Elizabeth Fields, the center director at Mona Moede. “The goal of this work is to increase the language use in the home and increase the conversational turns taking place between parent and child, no matter what language and culture they’re living within.”