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Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words?

Five-year-old Darrian recently stopped by my desk, clutching the hand-written Valentines he had decorated for Hope House staff members in his little hands.

I watched him run from person to person, delivering his Valentines and chattering away about his party at school, the Valentine box he'd made, and what types of Valentines his friends had given him.

I well remember when Darien was just a toddler and moving into our Residential Program with his mom, who only 17 years old. Darrian didn't say much. He would dip his head shyly and look up at you, but he rarely spoke. We wondered about a language delay -- and with good reason.

A middle-class 3-year-old has a working vocabulary of 1,200 words.

A poverty class adult has a working vocabulary of only 900 words, which highlights the importance of early learning.

If you think about it, most of you reading this can imagine your interaction with a small child who has just spotted a bird in a tree outside his window. Even if you were trying to rush out the door, you would likely stop and take the time to communicate.

"What a pretty bird! What color is the birdy? The birdy is blue! What does the bird say?"

This interaction would have been very different in the homes of our teen moms who grew up in generational poverty. Upon pointing out a bird when they were a small child, they would likely have heard something very different.

"Get away from that window! You want to fall? We miss that bus, we be late, we lose our food stamps. You want to eat or not?"

For most of our girls, the focus in their homes as they grew up was on survival, and communication was directed AT a child with the intention of keeping her safe or giving brief instructions. For this reason, children from generational poverty are exposed to fewer words and often start school far behind their peers.

Hope House staff members work hard to model communication to our teen moms as we interact with them and with each other. Enriching the communication abilities of our teen moms naturally enriches the communication skills of their children.

However, there is more that we can do to help the children of our teen moms be prepared to succeed in school and be better positioned to break the cycle of poverty. Therefore, this spring we will begin providing an Early Learning Program to the kids of our teen moms while their moms are in GED class, college tutoring, or other program events.

We initially planned to launch our Early Learning Program when our permanent Resource Center and Early Learning Center are built, but we realized that we have the chance to impact our little ones NOW with a pilot program that focuses on language acquisition. Using the evidence-based Creative Curriculum, even our toddlers will gain language skills while having fun in a loving, energetic environment.

Come and volunteer in our little Early Learning classroom and see what a difference you can make just by sharing your words with these little ones. Maybe you'll end up being their Valentine a few years down the road!



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Blog Archives

January 2018

Organizational Growth Cycles: Stages that Lead to a Mature Nonprofit - 01/23/2018

November 2017

Knowledge Share #19: Creating Unity: The Power of Mealtime - 11/20/2017

October 2017

Knowledge Share #18: The Power of Networking - 10/12/2017

September 2017

Knowledge Share #18: Engaging the Millennial Generation - 09/19/2017

August 2017

Knowledge Share #17: When the Dream Seems Too Big - 08/17/2017

July 2017

Knowledge Share #16: Personalized Learning - The Cornerstone of our GED Program - 07/18/2017

June 2017

Knowledge Share #15: Special Needs and Special Moms - 06/08/2017

April 2017

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children - 04/18/2017

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017

February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017

January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017

November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016

September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016

August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016

July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016

June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016

May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016

April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016

March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016

February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016

January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016

December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015

October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015

July 2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015

May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015

April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015

February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015

January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015

December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014

October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014

September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014

July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014

June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014

May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014

April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014

March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014

February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014

January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014

December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013

November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013

September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013

August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013

July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013

June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013

May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


Recent Comments

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home ea ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home each ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Lisa Steven said: Laura, you are an amazing teacher! You are making a huge impact in the lives of our young moms ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kerry Kelley said: What a great post, Laura! That was so insightful and caring! It almost made me cry! I love the pe ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset
Caty love said: Danielle is one of my friends back from high school and just wanted to stop by and show her how hap ...   [more]

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