One Million Words


I recently read an article by Psychcentral which stated that “Young children who are reading five books a day from birth will begin kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to…”.

Re-read that sentence again.  Let that information sink in.


Crazy, huh?  And to think that the influence of just one parent who takes the time to read 5 small books to their child each day can make such a profound influence on their child’s vocabulary, reading comprehension and language development.  What power we have as parents!!!

The reasoning here is simple common sense. A child who hears or sees more vocabulary words in their crucial early developmental stages-ages 0 to 5 years old-is going to be much better prepared and ready for reading when they begin school. They will have an easier time grasping the reading skills being taught in their classroom and will have a less likely opportunity to fall behind other students in school.

In fact, the article notes that “even children who are read only one book a day will hear about 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver.”

Jessica Logan, who authored the study at The Ohio State University, had discovered in a prior study that sadly, one-fourth of children were NEVER read to by their parent or caregiver and another fourth were only read to once or twice a week.

In this new study, they used preschool board books which contained an average of 140 words and picture books that contained and average of 228 words. They calculated how many words a child would hear from birth through his or her 5th birthday at different levels of reading, assuming that children would read board books through their third birthday and picture books during the next two years. Here are the word calculations children would have heard by age 5:

  • Never read to 4,662 words
  • Read to 1-2 times per week 63,570 words
  • Read to 3-5 times per week 169,520 words
  • Read to daily 296,660 words
  • Read to daily using 5 books per day 1,483,300 words.

WOW! What a difference!  What a difference YOU can make on your biological or adopted child by reading to them. A small amount of your time can make the difference in their language acquisition, reading comprehension, learning ability, and overall vocabulary. YOU can be a major influence on their educational well-being.


ALL PARENTS have the ability to do this. This task is not income dependent, but it is dependent upon the time you are willing to give to YOUR child.  You do NOT need a personal library on hand because your public library, community center, book mobile, and even the little free  lending libraries cropping up in the U.S. make books free and available to everyone.  Resale stores such as Goodwill or Salvation Army sell VERY inexpensive children’s books which are available to all. Join with other mothers from your church, day care, preschool, or other small groups to host book exchanges for your children—free to all!  Programs such as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails FREE books to children from birth to age 5 in participating communities within the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. You just have to sign up!  The Sesame Street in Communities website offers FREE reading activities, games, printable activities, word play, reading ideas, teaching vocabulary, recognizing letters, and other resources for you to use in reading with your child.  No computer at home? No problem.  There are computers to use in your local library and community center.


Talking to your children regardless of their age, singing to them, reading books to them, telling them a story, teaching sounds for phonics, listening to your child read or tell a story, asking your child questions, having books and magazines available, word play with cards/blocks/magnets/puzzles, promoting writing—–all of these activities  can be done by anyone regardless of higher education. If you make reading part of their daily life, your children will learn to love it and it will make them a lifelong reader.


The point is, the only barrier to having your child achieve that One Million Words advantage, is YOU!  So, turn off the TV. Take away the electronics babysitters (phones and IPADS). Settle in to a warm sofa with your child and a few books and make the Million Word MAGIC happen!

Karlene Edgemon works as MLJ Adoptions’ Director of Social Services. Throughout her 25 year social services career, Karlene has been able to watch adoption transform the lives of children and she is always brainstorming new ways to support adoptive families before, during and after their adoption.