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When Vocabularies Don’t Expand

Of all the statistics and anecdotes regarding the differences between those raised in chronic poverty and those raised in middle class comfort, this one has haunted me the most:

Vocabulary of a three year old in a professional home: 1,116 words
Vocabulary of an adult in a chronically impoverished home: 974 words
As mind-bending as that statistic is, its implications are even more troubling.
When adults can’t articulate what they feel, they DO.
So when adults with limited vocabularies cannot give verbal expression to feelings of rage, grief, passion, and despair, they act out in unhealthy ways: drugs, violence, promiscuity, and self-destruction.
(By the way, this is why we believe funerals are such vitally important events at Good Shepherd — they provide space and language for grieving people to “feel” their feelings in healthy ways.)
So what will I do with this statistic that won’t leave my head?
I haven’t figured that out yet. It certainly gives insight into people’s behavior.
It also makes me ever-more committed to help young parents see that their children need a lot less screen-based entertainment and a lot more text-based interaction.
How are you passing on vocabulary to the young ones in your life?
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