White Paper

Bridging the Early Language Gap: A Plan for Scaling Up

Bridging the 30 Million Word Gap, White House Convening, 2013 | September 26, 2013
Dana Suskind, MD, Patricia Kuhl, PhD, Kristin R. Leffel, Susan Landry, PhD, Flavio Cunha, PhD, Kathryn M. Neckerman, PhD

A White Paper prepared for the White House meeting on “Bridging the Thirty-Million-Word Gap”

Disparities in academic achievement by socio-economic status (SES) are rooted in part in early life experiences, including the language environment that surrounds young children during their critical early years. Exciting new interventions address this early language gap by enriching the language environments at home and in child care and preschool settings. However, achieving an impact at the population level requires that we go beyond the intensive one-on-one interventions that have been developed so far. This white paper describes a multi-tiered set of interventions pitched at the population, community, and individual levels. This multi-tiered initiative would employ interventions at multiple touchpoints to ensure a broad reach across diverse communities and to offer strategies that are tailored to a child’s development stage. Its goal is to devise an initiative that is scalable and in which the components have considerable synergy, so that we can begin to see a population-level impact on the SES gap in school readiness within a decade.

In the early language initiative we propose, population-level efforts would create a broad public awareness about the importance of “parent talk,” using broad-based media campaigns, Internetbased interventions, and interventions that reach expecting and young parents as they access the healthcare system for prenatal, postnatal, and infant care.