Early Child Care Might Bring Increase in Vocabulary, Says Study

A new analysis of an NIH study which appeared in the April 2007 issue of the journal ‘Child Development’ suggests that children who get high-quality childcare before entering kindergarten might have vocabulary scores in the fifth grade that are higher than their peers.

Dr. Jay Belskiy with the Institute for the Study of Children, Families & Social Issues was one of the authors of the recent article examining the study.  As part of the study, 1364 kids were tracked from their birth through the fifth grade.  For six years, researchers measured the quantity, quality and type of care the children received from age 0 to 54 months.  The study defined childcare as care by someone other than the mother that was given for 10 or more hours per week.

Once the children reached fifth grade, the study showed that the ones with the higher amount and quality of childcare prior to kindergarten consistently had better vocabulary scores.  This improvement was seen both in fifth grade as well as between kindergarten and third grade.

However, it should be noted that no improvement in reading was noted beyond the 54 month period. And curiously, it was the children who had received the higher quality childcare which were found to present a higher percentage of behavioral problems.  Nevertheless, the study’s authors note that this was not a large gap, that their behavior was well within the normal range, and that the behavioral difference might be accounted for by a lack of childcare experience by some of the providers (since even non=professionals such as grandparents qualified as “care-givers”).

The study’s findings are significant because most education experts trace a clear link between learning vocabulary and learning other subjects in school (since reading and vocabulary play a part in all other courses)–and because the biggest jump in vocabulary happens in those first six years of school from kindergarten to sixth grade.

Dr. James Griffin, who was the Science Officer for the study, said that this research shows a clear link between early quality child care and positive child development.

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