If it’s Saturday, you’re over forty, and your kids aren’t home, you may be singing and dancing to the Schoolhouse Rock song, “Conjunction Junction What’s Your Function?” right now. Admit it. I won’t tell them. I promise.
Entertaining, multi-sensory approaches to building vocabulary are also effective in addressing the problem of the “word gap” in the education of low-income children.
Caucus New Jersey host Steve Adubato explained that “by the age of three, children born into low-income families may hear thirty million words less than wealthier children”. Panel member Dr. Steven Barnett, Professor and Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research added that “… (it) is really a knowledge gap…closely tied to parent education and family income…” (Dr. Steven Barnett, Ph.D., Rutgers University).
In answer to this problem, Beth J. Cooper, Curator of Education at the New Jersey State Museum, tells us that Trenton Makes—Words! ‘‘…is a collaboration between…(the New Jersey State Museum, the Trenton Community Music School, and The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey) to help families understand that parents and caregivers are their children’s first teachers. So when we’re talking about the word (gap) we’re talking about every day (sic) building that vocabulary… in the classroom and… at home.” (*above quotes from video “Closing the Word Gap for Low Income Children”, Caucus New Jersey with Steve Adubato. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jdotKpmvsk July 5, 2017).
Trenton Makes-Words! holds four weekly interactive, themed sessions, with free transportation, a free meal or snack, take-home books and activity cards, an invitation to community appreciation events featuring music, food, and craft activities, and a free museum pass to the New Jersey State Museum, with discounted Planetarium tickets. The program’s free outreach initiative, Trenton Reading Nooks, provides a fun and safe reading space at designated locations.
Results of the Trenton Makes-Words! program are promising: “70 percent of the families reported reading to their child daily, a 45 percent increase from before; and …83 percent of the families reported hearing their child use a new word after attending the sessions…” ( PNC Invests Another $300K in Trenton Vocabulary Program, by Christina Rojas, July 22, 2017, http://www.nj.com/mercer/).
I love to read and I’m a great singer, so I volunteered for the program’s Family Day at the New Jersey State Museum last Summer. Guess what? This Baby Boomer picked up a few more vocabulary words too!