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Closing the Gap

infant holding a book.Speak More, Learn More

Speaking more to infants and toddlers each day can add up to a difference gap of 30 million words by the time they're three-years old!

Studies have shown this 30 million word gap can result in a significant vocabulary and language processing and comprehension disparity, which greatly impacts later reading skills and school success.
 

Ways You Can Help

One of the best ways to close the gap is verbal engagement: speaking more with and around children allows them to hear more, and to understand more.

It's never too late to help boost your child's early literacy development! There are simple ways you can speak more and engage with the little ones in your life during every day activities:

Out and About

  • Attend a Library program: our weekly storytimes and many other children's programs are created using Every Child Ready to Read principles, designed to help develop infant and children's early literacy and comprehension skills. Check our online calendar or Library Guide for a full program listing, or speak with our expert Library staff for assistance in getting your child ready to read!
     
  • Go for a talk'n'walk: take a trip around your neighbourhood and point out landmarks, discuss the weather, and greet your neighbours.
     
  • Go on a field trip: think up new vocabulary words you can use on your next outing! A visit to the zoo could introduce the word habitat, while your next visit to a pizza restaurant could introduce the words kneading dough.
     
  • Go shopping: point out all the fun shapes and colours you see in your local grocery store! Older children can help locate items or read out from a shopping list.

At Home

  • Share a story: read around and with your young family members. Grab a book and settle in; any time can be storytime! Look for books with illustrations that provide clues to word meanings. You can even borrow a Storytime Kit from your local branch that contains a themed collection of books, instruments, and activities. Ask Library staff for advice and recommendations if you need a hand!
     
  • Storytime, question time: ask open-ended questions about the books you're reading, like "what's happening here?" or "how do you think that character is feeling?" Talking about the story and connecting it to the child's own experiences and daily life helps increase their communication skills and language comprehension.
     
  • "I spy" notes: posting notes on things with their names can be a great way to familiarize your little one with the names of things around the house. Use coloured and shaped notes for even more fun, or start a game of "I spy"!

Anytime!

  • Start a conversation: natural conversations are key! Ask your little ones about the books you're reading together, their favourite part about the day they had, or their favourite toy to play with during playtime. Ask questions, make comments, and invite children to think and share their ideas.
     
  • Another word for...: introduce new and interesting words as you talk! Something's not just big, it's huge; it's not just yellow, it's the colour of sunshine! Introducing a new word in context goes a long way in helping your child understand what it means.
     
  • Be silly!: use facial expressions and gestures to help children make sense of new words. When explaining what joyful means, for example, smile widely and wave your arms.
     
  • Sing a song: don't be shy, sing along to the radio, or make up your own lyrics and music! Poetry and rhymes help introduce new words in a fun and playful way.

 

Resources and Further Reading