Tag Archives: word gap

Problematizing the “Word Gap”

mind the gap

We, as educators, know there isn’t a single magic bullet solution to any of the issues related to education. Equitably educating all of our young people is a big, complex, and often messy process.

I (Pooja) recently read an interesting article in The Atlantic which aims to complicate the notion of the “word gap.” The word gap refers to the disparity of words heard by children at the age of four years old in affluent households (approximately 45 millions words) versus low-income households (13 million words). The author of this article, Amy Rothschild, uncovers how the “word gap” may oversimplify issues around opportunity gaps (disparity in access to quality education and resources needed for all learners to be successful) apparent between children from affluent household versus those from low-income households. Oscar Barbarin, a child psychologist from the African American Studies department at the University of Maryland  asserts the word gap serves as a miracle solution, which doesn’t take into account several of the sociopolitical issues which play a role in word acquisition. Barbarin suggests focusing on the word gap doesn’t address the root of the opportunity gap issue: “If the problem facing low-income children of color is simply a question of parents saying more words and longer words, it would be much easier to fix than poverty and access to education for adults.”

A professor from Harvard, Richard Weissbourd, argues real obstacles must be addressed to begin to close the opportunity gap.  He says “…there are these very serious obstacles low-income families face.” For example, the article’s author, Rothschild, points out “lower-earning workers are more likely than others to work overnight and on weekends, and have irregular schedules without paid time off. Their hours require them to find childcare for hours that many centers are closed and commute when public transportation may not be available.”

Addressing the “word gap” may be a start in closing the opportunity gap for young learners, but we certainly cannot stop there.

Read the entire article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/beyond-the-word-gap/479448/