In the Harvard Education Letter‘s edition on early childhood education, Catherine Snow, an eminent education professor, talks about the importance of teaching vocabulary.
By the time middle-class kids with well-educated parents are in the third grade, they probably know 12,000 words. But we don’t have a curriculum in kindergarten for teaching vocabulary, and we don’t have a curriculum in preschool for teaching vocabulary. It’s just something we assume kids are going to do on their own. Meanwhile, kids of undereducated parents who don’t talk to them very much probably have vocabularies of 4,000 words by the time they’re in third grade—a third as many words as their middle-class peers.
Children from educated, vocabulary-rich families are the most likely to attend preschools that provide more opportunity to develop language, Snow says. Disadvantaged children and those from non-English-speaking families are the ones who need help.