Strengthening Children's Lives Through Science and Community Engagement

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Improve early childhood health and development through Social-emotional development PI and Co-PI Duration Sponsor
Bridging the Word Gap Research Network

(PI) Carta, J., ; (Co-PI's) Greenwood, C. R.,
and Walker, D.




PROBLEM:  Too many children from low-income families enter school with a serious learning disadvantage that emerges in the first few years of life—substantially smaller vocabularies than their middle- and high-income classmates.  Smaller child vocabulary size is traced to lower exposure to adult talk at home and childcare. The “30 Million Word Gap” by age 4 (Hart & Risley, 1995), translates to a deficit in vocabulary that grows over time, and leading to disparities in school readiness, academic achievement, and later life earnings and family instability.

GOAL(S) AND OBJECTIVES: The Aim of this Project is to create the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network – a collaboration of nationally recognized Word Gap researchers and stakeholders. This group is addressing 7 objectives to intensify efforts to close this gap:

1) Develop an interdisciplinary research network to develop and test interventions

2) Create a national research agenda to advance the science of intervention

3) Design a multi-level pilot intervention study to kick-start this work

4) Create a practice-based research collaborative

5) Disseminate critical information and foster continued education activities

6) Improve national capacity to carry out this intervention research through development of a data infrastructure, and syntheses of measures, designs, and analytic approaches

7) Expand the pipeline of scientists focused on Word Gap research by creating mentorship and other training opportunities for new investigators

PROPOSED ACTIVITIES AND TARGET POPULATION(S): Juniper Gardens Children’s Project (JGCP) is the home site of the original Hart & Risley word gap discovery, and our network will continue to build on their discovery by advancing intervention knowledge and practice. Our interdisciplinary network members all work with low-income families in community-based settings. We are conducting work in ways that are scientifically rigorous, socially meaningful, and related closely to innovations in intervention and policy.

ORGANIZATION:  The PI, Co-PIs, and Leadership Team direct the overall management of the Network. Each member of the Leadership Team directs one of 6 workgroups focused on key aspects of the research agenda.  A national Advisory Board representing key stakeholder groups of researchers, practitioners, policymakers and funders) is overseeing progress.

PRODUCTS: Peer-reviewed papers, webinars, summits and presentations describing evidence-based practices for promoting language development in low-income infants and toddlers are being produced; and innovative approaches to engaging high-risk families; cutting-edge research methodologies and approaches for assessing children’s vocabulary and monitoring growth also generated through this Network. 


Congratulations to doctoral student Anna Wallisch, the second recipient of the Vance & Marilyn Hall GRA Award! Anna…