What’s New in the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network


One Day. One KU to Highlight Bridging the Word Gap (BWG) Projects

On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, the Life Span Institute will be raising funds as part of  ONE DAY. ONE KU , a 24- hour annual fundraiser for the University of Kansas. Two BWG projects have been selected to benefit from this year’s contributions to the Life Span Institute. The featured projects are described below and also featured in a short video. Donations can be made at any point on February 20 by clicking here.

PC Talks (led by Dale Walker, BWG Leadership Team Member) 

Pave the way for academic success in infancy. Increasing the interactive talk between very young children and their caregivers is a key factor in early brain and behavioral development, and it has been shown to contribute directly to academic achievement and success in school and beyond. Through the PC Talk program, researchers at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project help parents and caregivers learn and become proficient at using communication strategies in their daily routines to increase language learning opportunities that infants and young children have at home and in child care. Gifts for this project will support development of a suite of online videos in English and Spanish and an app to help teach these strategies to parents and caregivers.

Child Development Summits (led by Joshuaa Allison-Burbank, BWG Emerging Scholar)

Speech-language pathologist Joshuaa Allison-Burbank and KU graduate students work with Native American families living in rural and urban Kansas communities to identify the needs of parents and unite them with resources. Among the topics addressed at these child development summits held in Kansas tribal communities are developmental disabilities, speech delay or hearing problems, early intervention options, and identifying parenting strategies to address behavior issues. Help expand this program to serve 150 families through three summits in northeast Kansas.


Talking with Babies Linked to Language Skills and IQ in Late Childhood, LENA Researchers Find

According to a longitudinal study published in Pediatrics, “Language Experience in the Second Year of Life and Language Outcomes in Late Childhood,” a child’s language experience between 18-24 months may predict their language and cognitive skills during school age years.

Researchers used LENA technology to audio-record the adult words and adult-child conversations of 146 infants and toddlers for six months. 10 years later, they assessed the children’s language and cognitive functioning, finding that conversational turn-taking between the ages of 18-24 months significantly correlated with IQ, verbal comprehension, and receptive and expressive vocabulary scores.

This study reaffirms the importance of addressing the word gap and developing interventions that foster the best early language environments. Read the publication and learn more about the study on LENA’s blog.


“Language Matters: Denying the Existence of the 30-Million-Word Gap Has Serious Consequences”

In response to recent criticisms of the word gap, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and colleagues published an article in Child Development entitled “Language Matters: Denying the Existence of the 30-Million-Word Gap Has Serious Consequences.” The authors lay out why the word gap cannot be disregarded, despite recent efforts to invalidate the research by Hart and Risley (1995) that has been instrumental in developing strategies to reduce the impact of poverty on children. The authors present compelling evidence for the language exposure gap across income levels and defend the importance of child-directed speech compared to overheard speech, noting that the benefits of overheard speech are unknown. The article underscores that abandoning the focus on the word gap could be harmful for low-income children. Read the full article here.


Neuroscience Research Finds Talking with Young Children Improves Language Regions of Developing Brain

In a recent neuroimaging study of 40 children published in the Journal of Neuroscience,  researchers have identified a positive relationship between adult-child conversation and connections between brain regions critical for the comprehension and production of speech. While it is well known that early language exposure affects children’s linguistic and cognitive skills and later academic achievement, this study provides new evidence supporting the link between language exposure and neuroanatomy. Read the full article here.


5 common myths about the word gap

To learn more, click here.


An important response to recent critiques of Hart and Risley’s original research which identified the 30 million word gap

“Talking with children matters: Defending the 30 million word gap”

To read the response, click here.


Bridging the Word Gap Poster Presentations at the 2018 Conference on Research Innovations in Early Intervention (CRIEI)

To learn more about the BWG poster presentations at CRIEI click here.


Submit your Practice-based Research Collaborative Project Proposal for the 2018 Cohort

We are excited to announce that we are initiating the application process for researchers and practitioners to join the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network, Practice Based Research Collaborative (PBRC) second cohort! Click here to access the PBRC description and proposal form. Send your proposal in now to be included in the Fall 2018 cohort. We will begin reviewing starting September 15th and continue until all openings are filled with qualified research program partnerships.


New Winter Gem of the Month

The Winter Gem of the Month is hot off the press, click here to read.