Babies Need Words Every Day!

Communication is important from the baby’s first cooing and vital for development especially before age three. Babies from newborn to fifteen months move from cooing, to babbling to imitating sounds.  They usually will know 5-10 words by the age of fifteen months.  It is important to have communication in the home that inspires vocabulary growth.  Access to libraries and the services they offer are important and the lack of access to books and information can contribute to a word gap with children. An awareness project titled “Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play” by the Association for Library Service to Children, (ALSC) has played a part in providing materials and support services to help bridge the gap.


In many low-income neighborhoods, there is a “book desert”, which means there are less libraries and bookstores.  There is less access to materials that encourage development that is critical prior to three years of age. According to a study done by New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development there are more dollar stores than libraries or bookstores in low-income neighborhoods. They looked at low-income neighborhoods in Detroit, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. In middle to high-income neighborhoods, there is approximately one book for every thirteen children versus one book for every thirty children in low-income neighborhoods.

The University of Kansas (Hart, Risley 1995) conducted research and found that children from low-income neighborhoods have a thirty million-word gap by the age of three. This affects children’s ability to do well in school; it lowers self-esteem and can lead to crime.  It also affects children and adults incentive to use library resources due to reduced communication skills. This is compounded each generation because of the carryover of low vocabulary skills.

The “Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play” project was started in to help bridge the thirty million word gap.  The campaign places posters in schools, libraries and communities to educate parents on different methods to improve vocabulary through reading, rhymes, and games. The project has collaborated with companies to create programs for communities impacted by this gap.  Libraries have sponsored book donation programs that go to schools, clinics and community centers.

The negative effect of the thirty million-word gap can be reversed through partnerships with parents, schools, and libraries.  Reducing and eventually eliminating the thirty million, word gap will help improve self-esteem, which in turn motivates a person to achieve goals.  That success inspires more goal setting and could be the positive change in a community.


Association for Library Service to Children. (n.d.) Babies need words every day: talk, read, sing, play . Retrieved from

Hart, B. and Risley, T. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3. American Educator, 27(1), 4-9. Retrieved from

Jomard, Asa. (2009, June 9). Speech development milestones. Retrieved from

Study identifies ‘book deserts’—poor neighborhoods lacking children’s books—across country. (July 12, 2016). Retrieved from