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Connecting the dots on child development & well-being


TRACKING THE VOCABULARY GAP. Source: The New York Times, October 21, 2013.


New research confirms that, by 18 months, a word gap differentiates children living in low-income homes from their more affluent peers. The implications of psychologist Anne Fernald’s research are enormous. Her findings reinforce earlier studies that show children raised by professional parents hear 30 million more words by age three and have more extensive vocabularies – because their parents read and talk to them more frequently. Her study also reveals that infants and toddlers accumulate vocabulary rapidly and that a delayed exposure to words and concepts stunts the processing skills critical to language development. More informative details about Fernald’s research can be found here

Throughout the child policy world, Fernald’s findings are welcomed. Responding to the study, Bryce Covert connected some dots – infusing Fernald’s research with context by citing two important contemporaneous studies. The first, from the Southern Education Foundation, reveals the majority of children living in 17 states across the South and West live in poverty. The other, published concurrently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that children growing-up in poverty experience chronic stress early in life that can have long-lasting effects on the brain.

Emphasizing one of Fernald’s most salient points, the role of parents, Next Generation’s Ann O’Leary remarked, “Parents have the power to help their children succeed in learning and in life through small acts that can have a big impact.”

Linking Fernald’s work to the latest data from NIEER and a report from the National Governor’s Association on improving early literacy, Mokoto Rich in the New York Times concludes Fernald’s data tips the scales in favor of greater investment in universal preschool. Look at this infographic to see who actually attends preschool in the U.S. Then, read this splendid Op-Ed by former Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) because it ties together almost every important policy issue associated with young children and early learning. For suggestions on how to evaluate an effective, high quality preschool program consult this.

First Five believes reopening the federal government has set the stage for negotiating longer-term changes across the policy spectrum, including funding for preschool. The funding for safety net programs that benefit children and families desperately need replenishment. For example, the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost in SNAP benefits ends on November 1. After adjusting for inflation, the purchasing power of TANF benefits is below 1996 levels for 99 percent of the program’s recipients. Sequestration and the looming budget battles in Congress render federal support for childcare uncertain, even though the National Women’s Law Center finds the average fee for full-time care ranges from approximately $3,900 to $15,000 a year.

Congress shut down. Then, it reopened. Finally, there’s bipartisan agreement. Unfortunately, the consensus comes at the expense of the ACA. The dismay and anger over’s botched rollout has both Democrats and Republicans almost singing kumbaya. In an attempt to limit the political damage, the White House has extended the deadline for buying insurance coverage until March 31 and has instituted what its calling a tech surge – bringing experts in to analyze and fix the problems. Ironically, Gallup polling shows approval of the ACA is now trending up. Print and electronic media are awash in commentary about the situation.

Ezekiel Emanuel explains how to fix the glitches. For those that crave getting down into the technical nitty-gritty of the fiasco, check out this. Matt Miller identifies who’s shedding crocodile tears over the fallout. And, here’s a must read on why the ACA’s failed rollout proves the superiority of New Deal liberalism. Rendering the situation even more surreal, in the middle of the debacle, Ohio’s Governor, John Kasich circumvented his state legislature and pushed through the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA – providing coverage to 275,000 Ohioans—calling it a ‘matter of life or death.’

Life, death, the ACA and infant mortality are on Eduardo Porter’s mind in this essay, where he maintains the ACA’s guaranteed access to low-cost health insurance will help bring down our country’s intractably high infant mortality rate. The Journal of Pediatrics warns breast milk sold on the Internet is often tainted – containing potentially dangerous bacteria. Here, in California childcare providers in L.A. County are being taught what comprises a healthy lunch, to reduce childhood obesity in toddlers and preschoolers. And, 549 California schools report they have edible gardens. That’s good news, because less than one-third of students in grades 5 and 7 met California’s physical fitness goals last year.


Socioeconomic status isn’t destiny. The good news is that regardless of economic circumstances, parents who use more and richer language with their infants can help their child to learn more quickly.” Anne Fernald, PhD author of the recent Stanford study on the existing word gap in 18 month olds.

That gap just gets bigger and bigger.” Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, remarking on new research finding that a language gap related to the socioeconomic status of parents impacts children as young as 18 months.

Language and literacy development begins at birth, and gaps in achievement appear well before kindergarten entry.” An excerpt from A Governor's Guide to Early Literacy: Getting All Students to Read by Third Grade, a publication of the National Governor’s Association.

“…no one is madder than me.” President Obama in a speech where he admitted the failures of the Web site.

"The Affordable Care Act is not just a website." President Obama during a White House event where he addressed the problems crippling the federal healthcare exchange website,





Language gap between rich and poor children begins in infancy, Stanford psychologists find

OP-ED. Closing the Word Gap. Hillary Clinton.

The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3. Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley.

Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K

Vocabulary Gap Study: Parents and Caregivers are Critical to Children's Success.

Low-Income Toddlers Fall Months Behind Wealthier Peers In Learning Language

Public school children living in poverty across US in highest numbers since 1960s

Stress of Childhood Poverty May Have Long Effect on Brain

REPORT. The State of Preschool 2012

REPORT. A Governor's Guide to Early Literacy: Getting All Students to Read by Third Grade

Stanford study shows importance of parents talking directly to their toddler INFOGRAPHIC: United States Lags Other Countries On Preschool Investment, Enrollment

Children need good start in life

Tools for parents: What to look for in a preschool program

The Federal Budget Deal and What's Next for Early Education

November 1 SNAP Cuts Will Hit All Recipients, Including Kids and Elderly

TANF Cash Benefits Continued To Lose Value in 2013

Child Care Assistance Policies: At a Pivot Point

Pivot Point: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2013


Government Shuts Down in Budget Impasse.

Government reopens after Congress passes budget deal, raises debt limit

Bipartisan Dismay Over Health Plan Woes at House Hearing

Americans will have an extra six weeks to buy health coverage before facing penalty

White House steps up damage control on healthcare rollout

POLL Approval of Affordable Care Act Inches Up. GALLUP

OP-ED. How to Fix the Glitches. Ezekiel Emanuel

OP-ED. Assessing the Exchanges

OP-ED. Crocodile tears on Obamacare. Matt Miller

OP-ED. What Kind of Problem is the ACA Rollout for Liberalism? Ohio's Governor Pushes Through Medicaid Expansion

Kasich says Ohio Medicaid expansion inevitable


New Front in the Fight With Infant Mortality

Breast milk sold on Internet is often tainted, testing finds

LA County to train child care providers to curb obesity epidemic

Survey shows Farm to School progress

California schools' fitness tests: About one-third of students met the goals

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