U study researches academic success through language skills

U study researches academic success through language skills

Youssef Rddad

Something as simple as starting a conversation in the grocery store could make a difference in a child’s scholastic achievement, a University of Minnesota researcher found. 
 
In her study published online this month, Katherine Ridge, a Ph.D. student in the Institute of Child Development found that sparking conversations between parents and their kids might assist in improving language skills, which can impact academic success.
 
Ridge and other researchers posted illustrated signs in grocery stores that asked questions like “Where does milk come from?” She said children in stores in poorer areas were four times more likely to ask their parents a question when signs were posted.
 
However, the researchers found less of an impact on children in stores in more affluent areas.
 
Ridge said children spend about 20 percent of their time in school, and one of the goals of the study was to allow children to have opportunities to practice their language skills outside of classes.
 
“I’m excited that [the study is] starting to encourage a broader discussion about how we can create interventions that [don’t] disrupt the parents’ and children’s family lives and can still help them,” Ridge said, adding that previous methods often required parents to attend a focus group.
 
Ridge said signs similar to the ones in her study have been implemented in a few cities, including Tulsa, Okla., and a city in South Africa.
 
“We decided to focus on language because language is the single best predictor of academic success,” said Roberta Golinkoff, a University of Delaware professor who assisted Ridge with the study.
 
Past studies have shown children from families on welfare have less than half the vocabulary than children who are middle class or higher.
 
In Minnesota, nearly 64 percent of students who received free and reduced-price lunches graduated high school in 2013 compared to 85 percent of students who didn’t, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.
 
The University of Minnesota College Readiness Consortium’s executive director Julie Sweitzer said the achievement gap can impact people’s health along with which
universities they apply and are accepted to.
 
Sweitzer said studies like Ridge’s help educators understand where some students are falling behind, but there is no one solution to closing the achievement gap.
 
“It’s not just finding the one widget that will help make the machine work. It’s finding multiple parts that’ll work with the millions of students out there,” Sweitzer said.