Research & Resources


This page provides a “Beginning Bookshelf” of annotated research and resources recommended by conference attendees and other stakeholders invested in closing the thirty-million-word gap. This bookshelf is a work in progress. If you have resources you think should be listed here please let us know by filling out this form. Scroll down for resources recommended to date.


Barlow, Jane, Sue Kirkpatrick, Sarah Stewart-Brown, and Hilton Davis. “Hard-to-reach or Out-of-reach? Reasons Why Women Refuse to Take Part in Early Interventions.” Children & Society 19, no. 3 (May 17, 2005): 199-210. doi:10.1002/chi.835. Utilized extensive qualitative data from 19 women who refused to partake in an evaluation of an intensive home visiting program, this study investigates why mothers often refuse to take part in early interventions. The study identified several themes mostly stemming from lack of trust: including perceptions about vulnerability, misperceptions about the intervention, and misgivings about the intervention. The study determined that the range of women that refuse to take part in interventions is a diverse group, which will require practitioners to address these themes in a novel and equally diverse manner.

Fernald, Anne, Virginia A. Marchman, and Adriana Weisleder. SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months Fernald-Marchman-Weisleder-etal.SES.18-24mo.13 Developmental Science 16, no. 2 (2013): 234-48. doi:10.1111/desc.12019. This longitudinal study analyzed the correlation between possessing efficiency – a child’s capacity to comprehend and interpret words – and early language development. The study also compared families of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Fernald et al. determined that the language attainment gap begins from birth; and that after 18 months of age children from a lower socioeconomic backgrounds are up to 6 months behind their more affluent peers in terms of language development. This research further underscores the importance of language enrichment for newborns.

Forget-Dubois, Nadine, Ginette Dionne, Jean-Pascal Lemelin, Daniel Pérusse, Richard E. Tremblay, and Michel Boivin. “Early Child Language Mediates the Relation Between Home Environment and School Readiness.” Child Development 80, no. 3 (June 2009): 736-49. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01294.x. This research explored the hypothesized correlation between home environment and school readiness. The researchers analyzed a large sample of twins that lived in differing socioeconomic conditions with different exposures to reading over 60 months. They determined no genetic correlation between language and school readiness. However, their research did find a significant positive correlation between early reading exposure and school readiness. These results assert that the home environment, which includes reading exposure, significantly affects school readiness; these processes are thus environmental rather than genetic. The report goes as far as to suggest that early exposure to reading may be the most potent learning experiences of early childhood.

Hoff, Erika. “Interpreting the Early Language Trajectories of Children From Low-SES and Language Minority Homes: Implications for Closing Achievement Gaps.”Developmental Psychology, February 13, 2012. doi:10.1037/a0027238. Children from low socioeconomic status homes and homes where non-English language is spoken tend to reach school age with comparatively lower English language skills. Since mastery of English skills is strongly associated with academic achievement, students that enter school with poorer English skills begin classes behind their peers. This divide persists through primary and secondary school. The report asserts that these differences in language trajectories of lower socioeconomic status children and language minority children should be viewed as a deficit. This is a pragmatic approach, since these variances are so closely correlated with academic underachievement.

Kalil, Ariel. Inequality Begins at Home: The Role of Parenting in the Diverging Destinies of Rich and Poor Children. Diss., University of Chicago, 2013. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. This paper examines the qualitative differences in home environments of affluent and poor families. Kalil asserts that divergent characteristics in the home affect child development from birth on; and these variances result in long term differences in educational attainment. Essentially, inequalities begin at birth due primarily to parental culture variances. This paper examines what motivates parents to invest heavily in their children’s early development. With this framework established, Kalil explores possible home intervention policy options. In order to minimize the early inequities of the home environment, interventions should focus on parental investments, providing underprivileged parents with the resources and knowledge to best care for their children.

Lesaux, Nonie K., Michelle E. Hastings, Joan G. Kelley, Sky H. Marietta, and Julie M. Russ. Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success. Report. Boston: Strategies for Children. Commissioned by Strategies for Children, Inc., this report contends that a significant proportion of Massachusetts children are not proficient readers by their entrance into third grade. The report recommends that funds are reallocated for early child language development through: early assessments and evaluations, professional and parental education, and rigorous early education curriculum. A significant component of this report’s recommendations is increasing adult awareness of the necessity of early language education. The report also suggests significantly involving the community into language proficiency programs.

Metz, Allison, and Leah Bartley. Active Implementation Frameworks for Program Success: How to Use Implementation Science to Improve Outcomes for Children. Report. Washington D.C.: Zero to Three, 2012. Commissioned by Zero to Three, this report addresses the lack of research dedicated to implementing early childhood programs. In response to this dearth of available knowledge, this report coordinates contemporary implementation science with evidence-based Active Implementation Frameworks devised by Fixsen and Naooom. This endeavor begins to close the research-to-practice gap that currently exists in the field of early education.  The report concludes with four key recommendations: assess effective early childhood strategies, use science-based implementation frameworks, develop expert implementation teams to track program development, and institute feedback loops between policy and practice that thus informs progressive reform of early education policies.

Nation, Maury, Cindy Crusto, Abraham Wandersman, Karol L. Kumpfer, Diana Seybolt, Erin Morrissey-Kane, and Katrina Davino. “What Works in Prevention: Principles of Effective Prevention Programs.” American Psychologist 58, no. 6-7 (June/July 2003): 449-56. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.58.6-7.449. Utilizing a review-of-reviews approach across substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, school failure, and juvenile delinquency and violence prevention strategies, this research identified nine characteristics associated with successful programs. The study details these characteristics while synthesizing them in appropriate prevention program frameworks. In total, this study aims to inform practitioners in order to improve program efficacy. This resource will help bolster the policy recommendation aspect of this project.

Pinderhughes, Ellen E., Robert Nix, E. Michael Foster, and Damon Jones. “Parenting in Context: Impact of Neighborhood Poverty, Residential Stability, Public Services, Social Networks, and Danger on Parental Behaviors.” Journal of Marriage and Family 63, no. 4 (November 2001): 941-53. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00941.x. This study examined distal and proximal influences on parental behaviors directed towards their children. Poverty exerts the most severe negative influence on families in distressed neighborhoods. This influence reduces the level of parental warmth exhibited within at risk families while amplifying sensations of isolation and resentment. Together, these behaviors result in chronic tension and stress experienced by at risk children. Interestingly, the research suggested that this stress and tension leads to child delinquency, which perpetuates parent-child animosity and further isolates and stresses the child – a cycle of enmity.

Shonkoff, J. P., and P. A. Fisher. “Rethinking Evidence-based Practice and Two-generation Programs to Create the Future of Early Childhood Policy.” Development and Psychopatholoy, forthcoming. This research explores the concept of a two-generation strategy to produce significant improvements in child development. Essentially, the research calls for novel and inventive interventions that provide parents with additional resources, skills, and child care practices in order to improve the child-rearing environment. The report calls for the innovative generation of intervention strategies that should be continually and rigorously evaluated in order to best affect parental education.

Suskind, D., Leffel, K. Hernandez, M., Sapolich, S., Suskind, E., Kirkham, E. Meehan, P. An Exploratory Study of Quantitative Linguistic Feedback” Effect of LENA Feedback on Adult Language Production.” Communication Disorders Quarterly, August 2013 vol. 34 no. 4 199-209. A child’s early language environment is critical to his or her life-course trajectory. Quantitative linguistic feedback utilizes the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) technology as a tool to analyze verbal interactions and reinforce behavior change. This exploratory pilot study evaluates the feasibility and efficacy of a novel behavior-change strategy, quantitative linguistic feedback, to influence adult linguistic behavior and, as a result, a child’s early language environment.

Weisleder, Adriana, and Anne Fernald. “Talking to Children Matters: Early Language Experience Strengthens Processing and Builds Vocabulary.” Psychological Science, January 23, 2013. doi:10.1177/0956797613488145. Acknowledging that slow language growth predicts later academic difficulties, this research explored how the quantity of speech directed towards infants in Spanish-speaking low socioeconomic status families affected the development of child language skills. The research utilized all day recordings to track the amount of speech infants are exposed to. Increased child-directed speech correlated with stronger language processing skills and larger expressive vocabularies. According to this research, the increased language processing skills facilitated greater language growth – both are then a product of richer language environments.

Welner, Kevin, and Amy Farley. Confronting Systemic Inequality in Education: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy. Report. Washington D.C.: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2010. Commissioned by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, this report advocates the targeting of educational grant money to marginalized groups, since these grant dollars would have the greatest overall impact with available resources. Welner and Farley, the authors of the report, refer to this focused grant funding as targeted universalism; addressing the needs of marginalized students will systematically improve the general student population. Additionally, this report contends that long term educational improvements should be valued over short term need meeting, since the former can break the cycle of underachievement while the latter merely perpetuates it.

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