Thirty million words. That’s the gap between what kids from high- and low-income families hear by the time they’re three, and it’s widely thought to explain socioeconomic disparities in language skills and, later on, academic success. But a recent study puts an age-old twist on that: Quality may matter more than quantity.
“Yet the quantity of language input is insufficient to account for variations in language development,” argues a team of psychologists led by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. Both quantity and quality affect kids’ language skills, the team writes in Psychological Science, and “[b]etween the two, quality, measured in part as diversity and complexity of words and grammar, might be the more potent predictor.”
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