Research has shown that lower income students have a smaller vocabulary than their higher income peers. This word gap leaves such students at an educational disadvantage before they even reach the age of three, and continues throughout their lives.
After reading ‘The Early Catastrophe’ by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, which highlights the correlation between income discrepancy and reading levels, first year M.S. student Shantel Isaac developed the R.E.A.D. (Reading Equals an Active Desire to learn) program to help address this problem. I was able to join her and five other students from the first year class, on a trip to South Jamaica Queens over Spring Break. As a part of the program, we read books to groups of 4-5 year olds at the Jamaica Queens Public Library. We chose books like ‘Thank You Bear’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ and read them out loud with the children, helping them pronounce the words they didn’t know. Our hope was that by reading the words out loud, these children could improve their vocabulary and take small steps in shrinking the word gap. It was a great afternoon full of laughter, fun and energy and it ended with the library letting us know that they were more than happy to have us back. Next up? Brooklyn!
A special thank you to Lisa Kail of NYU’s Office of Civic Management who provided us with metro cards and snacks for the children and to Jasmin Amely of the South Jamaica Queens Public Library.