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30 Million Word Gap - Ireland

9 Nov 2017

A pilot study of parents in Ireland, using the Talk2MeMore app

30 Million Word Gap Ireland is a pilot study of parents in Ireland, the first of its kind ever to take place in this country.

80% of brain development occurs between the ages of 0 and 3. By age three, most of the words used by a child came from their parent’s vocabulary – but also, the average number of words per sentence and the duration of a conversation reflect the parent’s speech patterns. A child from a talkative, sociable family will have a vocabulary of 1100 words by age 3, whereas a child from a non-interactive, non-talkative family will have as few as 500 words.

Before reading even enters the picture, children who don’t have a positive engagement with language end up with a word gap. By the time they are 4 years old, they will have heard a staggering 30 million words fewer than other children. They start school with a vocabulary half the size of their classmates, a disadvantage that can continue into later life.

Talk2MeMore is a mobile app that will allow parents to record how they talk to their children and provide them with instant feedback on the amount of words used and their conversational style. It is like a Fitbit, but instead of measuring your engagement in sporting activities, it measures your engagement with your children.

The study is a partnership between The Early Learning Initiative (ELI) at the National College of Ireland (NCI) and Talk2MeMore.

A tailored version of the app has been put into use by ELI’s home visitors this year. Coming up to its tenth anniversary, the Parent Child Home Programme recognises and encourages the parent as the child’s first and best teacher. Home visitors can now track and manage their visits using the app. This allows them deeper analysis and understanding of progress made or challenges faced by a family, and removes paperwork, so that they can spend more of their time directly engaging with a family.

The aim of the 30 Million Word Gap Ireland study is to build awareness of the importance of language exposure in the early years of a child's life and the impact parents can have on their child’s future opportunities by talking and interacting with them at this early stage.

As part of the study, participants will:

  • Complete a pre- and post-pilot questionnaire with the objective to learn if the study had an impact on their confidence levels in supporting their child’s language development.

  • Use the Talk2MeMore smartphone app for at least 30 minutes a day, for at least five days a week, over an eight-week period.

  • Participate in a post-study interview/focus group on using the Talk2MeMore App.

If you are interested in taking part, please contact eli@ncirl.ie or check out the Talk2MeMore website: http://talk2memore.com/

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