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Neuroscience and Society Series: Closing the Language Skills Gap Among Children

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Many children are at a disadvantage even before they walk into an early Head Start or pre-K program. Research indicates that children from families of low socioeconomic status (SES) have fallen more than six months behind their more advantaged cohorts in language processing and proficiency skills by the time they are two years old. And this deficiency continues to grow. It is apparent that this language gap has profound and lifelong outcomes, not only in “making the grade,” but in self-esteem and behavior. Brain research is helping scientists better understand the neural mechanisms underlying language processing in infants and young children, as well as the social interactions necessary for honing those skills.  What do we know and what can be done to mitigate the long-term effects of this deficit? This event addressed the latest research, the emerging “home training for parents,” and the policy issues surrounding this disparity.

Libby Doggett, Ph.D.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning, U.S. Department of Education

Anne Fernald, Ph.D.
Josephine Knotts Knowles Professor in Human Biology, Stanford University

Maricela Garcia
Chief Executive Officer, Gads Hill Center