A study recently published by Ohio State University researchers in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that young children whose parents frequently read to them could enter kindergarten having heard an estimated 1.4 million more words than children who were rarely or never read to. The researchers propose that more book reading sessions with young children is one way to address the 30 million word gap.
The researchers worked with the Columbus Metropolitan Library to identify the 100 most circulated books for babies and young children, which the researchers used to determine an average of how many words were found in each book. They found that board books intended for babies contain an average of 140 words and children’s picture books contain an average of 228 words.
Based on these estimates, children whose parents read to them once every other month would hear 4,662 words from books by age 5. One to 2 reading sessions per week lead to children hearing 63,570 words; 3-5 sessions per week, 169,520 words; daily, 296,660 words; and five books a day, 1,483,300 words. The estimated word gap from reading sessions is different from the conversational word gap mentioned above because reading books can expose children to words and topics that do not typically come up in daily conversation.
Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.