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Beyond the Word Gap: Language and Learning Develop in the Context of Early Relationships

The "word gap" has come to symbolize the gulf that can separate very young children who have rich opportunities for positive early learning experiences from those who do not. Research shows that as a group, children in families of lower socioeconomic means have fewer skills and know far fewer words than their more privileged peers.

How do we close the word gap? We know that developing language and literacy skills is about more than just hearing and learning words. It is about the social, back-and-forth communication that takes place through everyday interactions with parents, families, and caregivers which builds babies' language and thinking skills, and also their self-esteem. More than just the quantity of words that children hear, it is the quality of the child's exposure to language that makes a difference.

ZERO TO THREE's new web portal, Beyond the Word Gap, offers multimedia resources to help parents, professionals, and policymakers best support early language and literacy, school readiness, and the overall healthy development of infants and toddlers. The resources, available in English and Spanish, include interactive online tools, videos, infographics, podcasts, policy materials, and more.

A key feature of the Beyond the Word Gap web portal is ZERO TO THREE's new, free app, Let's Play!, which provides parents and caregivers easy, fun ideas for engaging babies and toddlers during daily routines, emphasizing the importance of making all activities a language-rich experience. Let's Play! is available for free on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.