By ‘word’ - experts are referring to vocabulary and the gap to close is the huge discrepancy between the word stores of children from professional families and those of their disadvantaged peers. This does not mean that every family living in material poverty sees children pre-destined to have an impoverished vocabulary, it does reveal that we ignore word gaps – wherever they appear – at our peril.
Vocabulary means the ‘body of words’ of a particular language. Nouns, verbs and adjectives deployed richly and diversely: used in environments where adults act as a spontaneous and readily-available thesaurus, exposing children to the many and wonderful nuances of the English language. This kind of environment develops children not only as orators but also as talented writers.
Educators such as Alex Quigely describe the importance of academic vocabulary if children are to progress educationally. He also talks about what needs to be in place for the successful development of academic vocabulary.
He says ‘The vocabulary gap starts early and is more significant than most people would ever consider…. The evidence [on vocabulary] gaps beginning early and proving a crucial factor in later school success stacks up… the vital importance of talk and language development in the early years is clear. Any politician who talks about the importance of social mobility should begin with early years provision and language development’
Yes – it’s never too late to try and influence the outcomes for older children and Quigley offers a wealth of practical advice for teachers faced with trying to do just that. However, early strategies surely remain the best option – reinforcing the Soundswell view that intervention and prevention must go hand-in-hand.
For therapists and educationalists the links between good language development and literacy and future educational success have been recognised for a long time. We know that for many children the critical stages of development right from the beginning of life are not always open to influence and all too often a child’s early years care/educational experience is the first opportunity for breaking the cycle
In the coming months Soundswell will be looking more closely at Quigely’s book Closing the [vocabulary] Gap (David Fulton: 2018) and exploring the potential opportunities for speech and language therapists to support teacher colleagues to implement vocabulary-teaching strategies.
Language for Learning: effective and practical courses which will help you to close the word gap. CLICK HERE for more details