The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type

Starred Paper

Degree Name

Early Childhood Special Education Studies: M.S.


Child and Family Studies


School of Education

First Advisor

JoAnn Johnson

Second Advisor

Ming Chi Owen

Third Advisor

Hsueh-I Lo

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Achievement Gap. Language Development. Conversation. Hart-Risley. Child Parent Interaction


Talking With Children Matters

A purpose of this paper was to review research literature on the Hart and Risley (1995) study and consider if similar research supports the conclusion of the original study. An example of support for the study is “Providence Talks,” a 2013 project to teach poor parents how to speak to their children utilizing an electronic device to count words. This project was made possible by a 2013 award from Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayor’s Challenge. An additional example is the Clinton Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail Initiative” (2014) which hosted the White House Word Gap Event in 2014 (Sperry, Sperry, & Miller, 2018). Support is also indicated in a 2006 study by Hoff which found that differences in word exposure partially or fully explain the SES gap in language skills. While Hart and Risley (1995) have support for their quantity of word theory, research indicates there are various aspects related to greater language development beyond quantity of words. The question of word quantity may be more critical at specific years of growth. For example, the quantity and quality of words a parent uses matter differently the first 3 years of life. Quantity of input is more important in the second year, while quality is more important in the third year (Rowe, 2012). Research considering the validity of Hart and Risley (1995) findings is addressed in this paper. Further, this paper also reviews recent research as it relates to the total picture of language development, including the critical role parents play in that task, what happens to the child's brain during growth, and the role of neuroscience in child development.

The Achievement Gap Dilemma

This paper addresses legitimate intervention programs that are utilized, their goals, and the extent of their success. Further, it examines what requirements are essential for a successful quality early childhood education program.


I would first like to thank my advisor, JoAnn Johnson (JJ) of the Child and Family Studies and Early Childhood Special Education programs at St. Cloud State University. JJ guided me through the Graduate school and supported my writing of this project.

Gratitude to my husband, Dan, and my family, Richard, Linda, Sarah, and Luke for providing me with support and encouragement. This would not be possible without them.

Thank you.

Anna Sindt