Bridging the 30 Million Word Gap

Jun 20, 2016

I heard a stat once that has stuck with me for years. By 3 years of age, there is a 30 million word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families. This gap leads to even larger gaps in comprehension, vocabulary and later general success at school. How can we bridge the 30 million word gap and give these kids a fair shot at early education?

I’m a developer at Fohr Card, and as such when I see a problem I try and collect data, and then come up with creative ways of solving it.

So first I started looking at the data:

Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home.

In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

Numbers from a study didn’t tell the full story and so last month I set up a classroom reading session for low-income 2–4 years olds at Henry Street Settlement in LES. Since they’re always short on classroom books, we also donate said book.

The kids loved it, and ate up every last word. They are adorable and have an insatiable appetite for books, but there was a problem. Statistically speaking, out of the 150 kids we’re reading books to, zero, or perhaps one, will have an age-appropriate book at home to practice reading. Thus, donating a book to their classroom and reading as a group isn’t going to solve that problem.

So if the problem is success in school, which is hurt by gaps in comprehension, vocabulary and reading skills, which is a product of not having enough books at home, maybe there is something we can do here.

If we can wrap 150 books, give one to each of these kids, and read it with them, we have 150 legitimate chances at changing a life.

To do this we utilized the social media campaign execution software we build at Fohr Card to organize a book drive alongside our our friend,@TheReadingNinja. Our goal is to use these tools to be able to organize some of our influencers and get more great books into homes that desperately need them.

We also welcome anyone in New York City to join us and help a kid who doesn’t own any books read his or her very first. If you can’t do either, help us spread the word.

Written by Doa Jafri, front-end developer at Fohr Card.

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