Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Verbal Interactions with Children

William Raspberry has an excellent column about the problems facing poor children who don't get much verbal stimulation from their parents (a problem I previously addressed here). A quote:
"To keep the language experience of welfare children equal to that of working-class children, the welfare children would need to receive 63,000 words per week of additional language experience. . . . Just to provide an average welfare child with an amount of weekly language experience equal to that of an average working-class child would require 41 hours per week of out-of-home experience as rich in words addressed to the child as that in an average professional home."

The short answer is: It's not going to happen. * * *

* * * We're talking about poverty not necessarily ignorance. And we're talking about parents whose parenting styles -- and not just language patterns -- are passed along from one generation to the next. Even full-day, high-quality child care can't begin to close that gap.

What might? It occurs to me that the most reasonable place to try to break the cycle is with one generation of parents.

* * *

I've concluded that it may be easier to teach the parents some of the necessary "tricks" than to rescue children who've already fallen behind. Indeed, I believe it so strongly I've decided to invest time and personal resources to see how much meaningful difference can be accomplished in the small community that happens to be my Mississippi hometown.

I'll let you know how it goes.
Best of luck to him.


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