Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children / Edition 1

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Overview

This study of ordinary families and how they talk to their very young children is no ordinary study at all. Betty Hart and Todd Risley wanted to know why, despite best efforts in preschool programs to equalize opportunity, children from low-income homes remain well behind their more economically advantaged peers years later in school. Their painstaking study began by recording each month - for 2-1/2 years - one full hour of every word spoken at home between parent and child in 42 families, categorized as professional, working class, or welfare families. Years of coding and analyzing every utterance in 1,318 transcripts followed. Rare is a database of this quality. "Remarkable," says Assistant Secretary of Education Grover (Russ) Whitehurst, of the findings: By age 3, the recorded spoken vocabularies of the children from the professional families were larger than those of the parents in the welfare families. Between professional and welfare parents, there was a difference of almost 300 words spoken per hour. Extrapolating this verbal interaction to a year, a child in a professional family would hear 11 million words while a child in a welfare family would hear just 3 million. The implications for society are staggering: Hart and Risley's follow-up studies at age 9 show that the large differences in the amount of children's language experience were tightly linked to large differences in child outcomes. And yet the implications are encouraging, too. As the authors conclude their preface to the 2002 printing of Meaningful Differences, "the most important aspect to evaluate in child care settings for very young children is the amount of talk actually going on, moment by moment, between children and their caregivers." By giving children positive interactions and experiences with adults who take the time to teach vocabulary, oral language concepts, and emergent literacy concepts, children should have a better chance to succeed at school

This major new book describes the parent-child interactions of the language acquisition years, revealing differences in the experiences of one- and two-year-olds from families across a spectrum of socioeconomic status. The authors show how the amount of time parents spend talking to their children in the early years of life directly influences children's future accomplishments.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - William Rasberry
Meaningful Differences was quoted in The Washington Post (Nov. 17th) in a follow up to a column written by William Rasberry in The Wash. Post from August 2003: Reaching Parents Early. The follow-up column is a summary of the columnist’s experience in his hometown of Okolona, Mississippi after applying practices from Meaningful Differences to his small town community and the results he observed.
US News & World Report
Referenced in US News & World Report (November 24th ed.) in an editorial about why minority groups still fall behind on the education front and what works vs. what doesn’t work and why in these classrooms. The article highlights the importance and influence of family on educational results and references the Hart/Risley research revealing that differences in the quantity of language interactions between children and their parents, up to the age of 3, have an enormous impact on learning trajectories.
U.S. Senator - Thomas Daschle
"Alerts us to how much each person's future intellectual ability hinges upon his or her experience in the first year of life."
Lois Bloom
A detective story of the most serious academic kind.
H.J. Eysenck
The book is a model of how environmental factors in intelligence formation should be studied.
Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities, University of Virginia - E.D. Hirsch
"From age 2 on, there exist large differences in children's familiarity with unusual words, standard pronunciation, and complex syntax, a fact that was long suspected, but not well documented and quantified until the monumental research of Betty Hart and Todd Risley."
author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, Fifth Edition - Jim Trelease
"Some of the most eye-opening research ever produced on children's early lives."
Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education - Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst
"Remarkable findings . . . ground-breaking"
Contemporary Psychology
"A benchmark for anyone interested in how children acquire intellectual skills, or in the policy implications of educational interventions in this area."
Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis
"Hart and Risely's simple, clear writing style provides a succinct product... Read it yourself. Send one to your congressional representatives."
Journal of Early Intervention
"[This] book may very well change our thinking abut how we arrange early experiences for our children, if not revolutionize our approach to childhood. It should be required reading by anyone seriously involved in early education and intervention as well as policy makers."
Remedial and Special Education
"This book has the potential to shape the lives of future generations."
From the Publisher

"This book has the potential to shape the lives of future generations."
Booknews
Taking on the nature vs. nurture debate, Hart and Risley studied the daily lives of 1- and 2-year-old children in American families of all socioeconomic classes. The families showed huge contrasts in the amount of interaction between parents and children--differences that translated into striking disparities in the children's later vocabulary growth rate, vocabulary use, and IQ scores. The link exists regardless of a child's race, the researchers found, offering an important answer to those such as the controversial authors of The Bell Curve who attribute intelligence to genetics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557661975
  • Publisher: Brookes, Paul H. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 203,837
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Betty Hart, Ph.D., began her career in the early 1960s at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Washington, where she participated in the original demonstrations of the power of learning principles in influencing young children. With Montrose Wolf and Todd Risley, she introduced the basic procedures of adult attention and time-out now routinely taught and used in teaching and parenting. She also helped introduce the procedures for shaping speech and language widely used in special education. In 1965, she and Todd Risley began more than 35 years of collaborative work at the University of Kansas, when they established preschool intervention programs in poverty neighborhoods in Kansas City. Their study of what children actually do and say in day care and preschool and their publications on incidental teaching from the empirical base for contemporary child-centered teaching practices in preschool and special education. Dr. Hart is now Professor Emeritus of Human Development at The University of Kansas, and Senior Scientist at the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies at The University of Kansas. She has remained focused on the language development of preschool children.

Todd R. Risley, Ph.D., began his career in the early 1960s at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Washington, where he participated in the original demonstrations of the power of learning principles in influencing young children. With Montrose Wolf and Betty Hart, he introduced the basic procedures of adult attention and time-out now routinely taught and used in teaching and parenting. He also helped introduce the procedures for shaping speech and language widely used in special education. In 1965, Hart and Risley began more than 35 years of collaborative work at the University of Kansas, when they established preschool intervention programs in poverty neighborhoods in Kansas City. Their study of what children actually do and say in day care and preschool and their publications on incidental teaching from the empirical base for contemporary child-centered teaching practices in preschool and special education. Before his death in 2007, Dr. Risley was Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Alaska and Senior Scientist at the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies at The University of Kansas. He served on many national boards and commissions, as Editor of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, as President of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy and of the behavioral division of the American Psychological Association, and as Alaska's Director of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.

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Read an Excerpt


Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children
By Betty Hart, Ph.D., and Todd R. Risley, Ph.D.
©1995. Brookes Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Intergenerational Transmission of Competence

America in the 1960s found a cause worth committing to: the War on Poverty. The aim was to interrupt the cycle of poverty—the economic disadvantages that resulted from employment disadvantages that resulted from growing up in poverty. An attack was mounted on two fronts: breaking down barriers to the advantages mainstream society enjoyed, and providing a boost up through job training programs and early educational institutions. Job training programs and early education programs provided a boost up into the job market and the school system.

Because poverty was differentially prevalent among minorities, racial discrimination had to be targeted. But race, rather than cycle of poverty, was a central issue only in designing strategies to preserve cultural identity within mainstream society. Early education programs such as Head Start were funded to serve African American children in inner-city ghettos, Native American children isolated on reservations, and white children in rural Appalachia. All across the country, experts in early childhood education designed intervention programs to give children isolated in poverty the social and cognitive experiences that underlay the academic success of advantaged children. It was thought the War on Poverty could change children's lives within a generation.

Events continue to remind us that the War on Poverty did not succeed. After barriers were removed and a boost up was provided, the people who had the knowledge and skills that could influence the and motivate the next generation of children moved away and left those less competent isolated in communities riddled with drugs, crime, unemployment, and despair. Like most wars, the War on Poverty was more successful in destroying the past than in creating the future, the competencies for participating in an increasingly technological society.

Competence as a social problem is still with us. American society still sees many of its children enter school ill-prepared to benefit from education. Too many children drop out of school and follow their parents into unemployment or onto welfare, where they raise their children in a culture of poverty. The boost up from early intervention during the War on Poverty did not solve the problem of giving children the competencies they need to succeed in school. We recognize now that by the time children are 4 years old, intervention programs come too late and can provide too little experience to make up for the past.

Early Intervention Programs

The intervention programs of the War on Poverty, the first efforts, were modeled on the booster shot. It was assumed that a concentrated dose of mainstream culture would be enough to raise intellectual performance and lead to success in mainstream schools. Children disadvantaged from living in isolated areas were brought into preschool programs similar to those advantage children attended. The programs offered the enriched materials and activities available in such preschools, but replaced the traditional emphasis on social development with an emphasis on compensatory education, especially language and cognitive development.

Innovative curricula were designed and field tested. The content and objectives of the curricula were selected to teach in the preschool the competencies advantaged children apparently acquired at home. All of these curricula programmed successive educational experiences using materials especially designed to help children master basic academic skills in the style originated by Montessori for teaching poor children in Italy. DARCEE of Gray and Kalus, Karnes's GOAL, DISTAR of Bereiter and Engleman, and others are examples of the language and

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Table of Contents


Foreword
A Preface for 2002
Preface
About the Authors
Acknowledgments
  1. Intergenerational Transmission of Competence
  2. Sampling Children's Developmental Experience
  3. 42 American Families
  4. Everyday Parenting
  5. Quality Features of Language and Interaction
  6. The Early Experience of 42 Typical American Children
  7. Accomplishments of the 42 Children at Age 3 and Later
  8. The Importance of the First 3 Years of Family Experience
  9. Intervention to Equalize Early Experience
References
Appendix A: Quality Features
Appendix B: Figures
Index
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