In November 2018 Talk2MeMore launched The Word Gap Ireland study in partnership with the Early Learning Initiative based in the Docklands . The aim of the study is to see can we demonstrate that if we gave parents a tool that would allow them to gain insight into their child’s language environment, while also complementing that with some activity, in fun and games, would we see behavioural change? And – equally important – would we see the word gap in an Irish context?

We put a call out to the nation to all parents with toddlers to get involved in the study with a fantastic response. A further two partner organizations have since come on board, both based in Dublin and doing tremendous work in supporting our communities.

Activities enjoyed when using the Talk2MeMore app

At the time of writing this blog the study is well and truly underway. We are already starting to crunch the numbers and we thought we’d share a snapshot of the findings so far. In summary parents have been asked to use the Talk2MeMore app for at 30 minutes a day, five days a week. As you can see from the graph above, early findings are showing parents are spending more than one quarter of their time reading when using the app with their child.

The study has been inspired by the influential study published in the 1990s by US researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. It found that by the time kids in the United States were 3 years old, those from families from lower income communities had heard 30 million fewer words than their peers from professional families. As a result, they had picked up far smaller vocabularies. This word gap has been shown to attribute to a child’s school readiness and future academic achievement’s.

When participants used the app most frequently

An interesting pattern has emerged in respect to when parents turn on the app and dedicate a window of time to spend with their child. This time is spent reading, playing, washing the dishes. It doesn’t really matter. The main thing is increased bonding time! It appears the evening time is when parents are most frequently using the app. However lots of parents seem to choose first thing in the morning. Perhaps they want to start the day full of energy, turning the ‘getting ready’ routine into a missed opportunity to talk to their child about what is going on.

Personally, I’m really excited by whatever the outcome is. Simply by asking the question we’ll learn so much. Without such initiatives we missed the opportunity learn more about how we can education parents to be the most effective with their time in the early years. While also shining a light on how we can be more efficient in our use of scarce government resources to support society when greater impact can be achieved. This topic is starting to attract greater attention, highlighted by a great report published in the Dublin Inquirer last week discussing the need for increased support for early-years education.

For those of you reading this article who are participating a céad míle fáilte for your contributions to date. Your commitment is going along way towards starting the conversation around the importance of language exposure in the home. The results will be used to reinforce the message that we should be investing early in our child’s development so everyone gets an equal opportunity to have the best start in life.

The call out continues so if you are a parent of a child aged 0 – 3, own an Android smartphone, and want to learn more about the world from your child’s point of view please subscribe here for more information.

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