BLOG: KNOWLEDGE SHARE
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!
Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016
Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016
Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016
Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016
Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016
Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016
Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016
Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016
Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015
Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015
TEEN MOM BARRIER #6: GENERATIONAL POVERTY - 07/16/2015
Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015
Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015
Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015
Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015
Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014
Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014
Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014
Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014
Community - 01/20/2014
8 Pennies - 12/18/2013
"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013
Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013
Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013
Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013
Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach
Eva said: I am so proud of Vanessa good friend of mine and mother. [more]