I just finished reading this article in SLJ and while I wasn’t surprised by the results, they somehow seemed a little shocking to me. Economic disparities and children’s kinder-readiness are not news. But to imagine the difference between a 20,000 word vocabulary and a 3,000 word vocabulary kind of puts one to task. How can we, as librarians, help to bridge this gap? The article ended with the reminder that irregardless of socioeconomic status, parents everywhere can do the simple act of conversating with their under 36 month (or older too – just because they can talk back doesn’t mean you can’t at least try to conversate with them) child. Conversation is free. A child’s attention is free. This is the time when they’re not worrying about talking to their friends or you’re not worrying about driving them to th next practice.
Lower socioeconomic parents might be at work, though. And children might spend more time with an over-worked caregiver that is not their parent. And these people may not understand the importance of conversation with a seemingly warm ball of blankets and baby powder that does nothing but cry.
This is the importance of outreach. The importance of visiting WIC centers and state-funded preschools for the underprivileged and just talking to parents in your community. If parents don’t feel comfortable talking to their children, then this also demonstrates the importance of early literacy programs in libraries such as Baby and Toddler Storytimes. The kids may seem like they’re not listening by running around the room and squiriming, but as the article stated, I can almost guarantee that they’re absorbing 10X the amount we think they are just by listening to our white noise.