Greenwood, C.R., Carta, J.J., Schnitz, A.G. et al. Progress Toward a Multisectoral Community Intervention Approach to Prevention of the Word Gap. Behav. Soc. Iss. (2021).


Children learn language through the interactions they have with their parents/caregivers beginning at birth. Hart and Risley (1995) discovered an inequity in the home language input children received from parents/caregivers. Children reared in low-income families received less input (conversations, turns) from parents than did children reared in more advantaged families. Less language input was linked to a disparity in children’s vocabulary learning by age 3. The long-term result of this social determinant of early language/literacy learning is a life trajectory of poor educational, economic, and health attainment for many children in families with limited resources, at vast cost to individuals, communities, and the nation. What is needed is an approach to word-gap prevention that is capable of achieving positive individual, community, and population outcomes. Translating research into practice, we developed the Bridging the Word Gap Community Action Planning Guide (BWG-CAPG) using a combined behavior-analytic, community psychology, and public health framework for this purpose (Greenwood et al., 2017). We also developed a progress-monitoring measure, the online BWG Community Check Box Evaluation System, to provide feedback on a community’s actions and progress in implementing their plan. Results from an initial pilot investigation within and across three community sectors in a large urban city were promising. BWG Community Check Box results indicated a number of desired outcomes: (a) capacity development and mobilization, (b) community implementation actions, and (c) community changes in practices, programs, and policies. Implications are discussed.