Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Intervention Research to Improve Language-Learning Opportunities and Address the Inequities of the Word Gap

Walker, J. Carta, J.K. (2020) Intervention Research to Improve Language-Learning Opportunities and Address the Inequities of the Word Gap. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 50(1), 1-5. ,

Access: FREE/Open Access

Publication year


study description


core topic(s)

Early Literacy

Population Characteristics

Lingually Diverse , Poverty/Low-Income , Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Clinic-Based Programs and Interventions , Disparity/Adversity , Language and Literacy Development , Programs and Interventions (other)


In this Special Issue we focus on highlighting intervention research addressing inequities in early language-learning experience that may place some children at a disadvantage later in school.


Word gap.

outcomes evaluated

Early language learning interventions.


Topics Discussed: Research identifying the word gap; Critiques of early research; The adverse impact of poverty on child language learning; Need for intervention research addressing the word gap; Overview of studies addressing communication and language interventions (Parent-implemented communication and language intervention; Language interventions in child care and early learning programs; Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; Pediatric and population-level interventions; Methodological features of communication and language intervention research); Next directions for guiding communication and language intervention research.

sample size

n=10 (articles reviewed)




Research over the last three decades has documented evidence for the differential amount and quality of children’s early language exposure, referred to as the “word gap.” This gap has been associated with family socioeconomic factors and has important consequences for children’s later vocabulary, literacy and school performance. Given the profound social, academic, and economic costs that may result when young children do not have ample language-learning opportunities, it is of primary importance to prevent inequities in language experience. With renewed interest in finding solutions to the word gap, this Special Issue is organized around a series of literature syntheses analyzing the state of language intervention research. Reviews of intervention studies conducted with parents, early educators and healthcare providers, and with culturally and linguistically diverse participants, as well as reviews of training and implementation practices, and methodological factors that inform intervention are described. Ten featured empirical studies document the efficacy of communication and language interventions and illustrate promising practices designed to improve outcomes for infants and young children from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Based on the findings described in this compilation of articles, we provide some summary highlights and future directions for research addressing the word gap. First, we review the evidence for the word gap and discuss the literature to date in this area.


Not discussed.