Millions of words: Bridging the language gap

If you attended the 2014 Leadership Luncheon this spring, you heard about the study showing that children’s exposure to words is strongly linked to their family background (see graphic) and to their future educational success.

This year the YWCA has taken a close look at our childcare programs and resolved that kids in our care from every background will be thoughtfully exposed to the millions of words that will help them be successful learners.

To continue this goal of language growth in 2015, Director Tabitha Vance is excited about the opportunity to introduce a more structured preschool curriculum at My Friends’ House. She and the MFH teachers will be using materials from Funshine Express, a 6-to-36-months curriculum and a 3-to-5-years program, to help ensure that they are meeting state standards for school readiness in an age-appropriate way. “But don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll still be noisy and messy and all the good things that we are!” And there are no plans to move away from the homelike environment that is so special about MFH.

For parents, having a more structured program will mean access to more materials about what their children are learning and how these lessons meet state educational standards.

Another exciting addition will be book bags the center will send home with children for at-home enrichment and variety. “We don’t want the book bags to feel like one more chore for busy parents. I believe they will be a great tool for incorporating more reading into family routines, and we’ll include tips and incentives for making books fun.” Vance knows from personal experience how easy it is to overlook parent-child reading time. When her son was 5 she overheard him tell someone that his father didn’t know how to read. His father, in fact, held two bachelor degrees, and their house was full of books. “I realized that he needed to see and hear his father read to understand the importance of reading,” said Vance.

Children, she said, thrive on the experience of reading and having conversations with the important adults in their lives. You can hear plenty of words by watching TV, but Vance pointed out: “You can’t interact with the TV! It won’t answer your questions or ask what you think.” And it isn’t nearly as much fun to snuggle up with on a cold winter night as a loving parent.