Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children
This study of ordinary families and how they talk to their very young children is no ordinary study at all. Betty Hart and Todd Risley wanted to know why, despite best efforts in preschool programs to equalize opportunity, children from low-income homes remain well behind their more economically advantaged peers years later in school. Their painstaking study began by recording each month - for 2-1/2 years - one full hour of every word spoken at home between parent and child in 42 families, categorized as professional, working class, or welfare families. Years of coding and analyzing every utterance in 1,318 transcripts followed. Rare is a database of this quality. "Remarkable," says Assistant Secretary of Education Grover (Russ) Whitehurst, of the findings: By age 3, the recorded spoken vocabularies of the children from the professional families were larger than those of the parents in the welfare families. Between professional and welfare parents, there was a difference of almost 300 words spoken per hour. Extrapolating this verbal interaction to a year, a child in a professional family would hear 11 million words while a child in a welfare family would hear just 3 million. The implications for society are staggering: Hart and Risley's follow-up studies at age 9 show that the large differences in the amount of children's language experience were tightly linked to large differences in child outcomes. And yet the implications are encouraging, too. As the authors conclude their preface to the 2002 printing of Meaningful Differences, "the most important aspect to evaluate in child care settings for very young children is the amount of talk actually going on, moment by moment, between children and their caregivers." By giving children positive interactions and experiences with adults who take the time to teach vocabulary, oral language concepts, and emergent literacy concepts, children should have a better chance to succeed at school
Of critical importance to parents, policy makerers, and edu
By email@example.com - April 4, 1998
Hart and Risley have created an easy to read volume that speaks readily to parents, policy makers and educators. This book is a must for anyone who truly wants to understand the relationship between the way we interact with children and the evolution of their intellectual development. If you are interested in poverty prevention, early literacy intervention or the impact of family based literacy on childrens' academic success, you will be inspired by the work of Hart Risley.
By Paul Chance "author, The Teacher's Craft" - February 13, 2009
This book is a contemporary classic. Published in 1995, in my opinion it remains one of the most important books ever published in the areas of developmental psychology, intelligence, and language development, and it has powerful implications for education.
Perhaps more than any other book, it undermines the nativist views of people like Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker. Nativists argue that cognitive development is largely an automatic process, the result of in-born brain mechanisms; experience makes little difference. What Hart & Risley found was that experience makes a profound difference. Children whose parents provide a rich linguistic environment are far more advanced linguistically and intellectually when they start school, and do far better in school, than children whose parents do not.
The study compares professional, working class and welfare families, so some may assume that the results merely reflect differences in genes: Poor kids don't do so well... read more
Serious implications for early child intervention efforts
By A Customer - March 27, 1997
This book is one of the by-products of one of the most dedicated efforts to understand variances in the development of language. One of the reviewers of the book states that the work "...is a detective story of the most serious academic kind." Yet the book is written in a manner that would allow it to be required reading for "Parenting 102" if not "Parenting 101". The implications for parenting and public policy are profound
In The Everyday Language of White Racism , Jane H. Hill provides an incisive analysis of everyday language to reveal the underlying racist stereotypes that continue to circulate in American culture.: ...