According to a recent study at Ohio State University, “Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to.”
This lack of reading is the premise of “The Million Word Gap,” which explains why children who aren’t read to daily are more likely to fall behind not only in academics but in life as well. In fact, the same study found that children, “who are read only one book a day will hear about 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver.”
Reading and being read to increases a child’s “heard vocabulary”—or the new words they attain through listening—making them more likely to connect with the words once they encounter them in school or a text. Children are also better prepared to learn how to read and pick up the skills faster when they start school instead of trying to play catch up with their classmates.
It’s not surprising that reading to your child is beneficial, but it is shocking how much of a gap not reading causes in their vocabulary. The study calculated the amount of words children would know by age five having: never been read to (4,662 words); read to 1-2 times per week (63,570 words), read to 3-5 times per week (169,520 words), read to daily (296,660 words), and five books a day (1,483,300 words).
These calculations show an astounding gap of over one million words between children are read to every day and those who aren’t. While different studies show varied results of a 10 million, 20 million, or even a 30 million gap, there’s no denying what they all have in common: being read to at a young age is essential.
The Becoming a Nation of Readers report from 1985, found that “the single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” Children don’t typically receive enough vocabulary exposure through everyday conversations with their parents alone, which is why reading is so critical. When a parent reads to their child—at least during bedtime—these books often use more advanced words and cover different topics not encountered in regular conversations.
During reading time, children also develop socially and emotionally by learning new ways to express themselves from stories, building an emotional toolkit. They are more likely to use their words during times of frustration and sadness instead of destructive behavior because they can enunciate how they’re feeling.
As parents, there’s not always enough time in the day to balance it all. It may be difficult for you to find the time to read a book to your child a couple of times a day, let alone five. When you’re unable to provide this support, you want to make sure your child is still receiving the education they need in the meantime.
Roybi Robot promotes language learning and vocabulary development through its heavily auditory features. During lessons, children take turns speaking and listening to the device, practicing these conversational skills while acquiring new words. Roybi Robot also has a library of content, with over 70,000 words, including poems and stories, so that your child won’t fall into the gap.