I have been very negligent on my blog for the past few months, but I promise I have a good excuse!
If you know anything about me, you know that I have a true passion for making videos and apps that provide education for new parents, so when I saw the tweet from the U.S. Department of Health back in January about the Word Gap Challenge, it had my name written all over it! I work every day to educate parents about the word gap and try to instill the importance of talking to babies starting before they are even born, so when I saw this challenge, I jumped right in.
You can read about the challenge here: http://www.wordgapchallenge.hrsa.gov
If you are not familiar with the word gap, allow me to give you a little background.
Studies show that during the first three years of life, a child of lower economic status hears roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. Because 85% of a child’s brain is developed by age three, not hearing words spoken to them by their parents during this critical developmental period puts these children at a huge disadvantage. This has been termed as the “word gap”. During the 2014 White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama issued a call to action for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use technology and innovation to bridge the word gap. In response, the Department of Health instituted the Word Gap Challenge, inviting anyone to submit proposals to use technology to bridge the word gap! What an amazing opportunity.
I had always wanted to create an app that demonstrated positive interactions between parent and child and I saw this as a perfect opportunity. I submitted a proposal to create an app and in March of this year my proposal was selected as one of ten out of 85 proposals to move on to phase 2 of the challenge. I was awarded $10,000 and a mentor from the Department of Health to create and perform pilot testing on the app. That is where it gets interesting. Suddenly I had to create an app with all of the components I promised in my proposal in less then six months and I was working on my doctorate and I had just started covering the NICU in addition to all my pediatric outpatients. An app with 200 video clips demonstrating positive interactions, text to explain each video clip, 100 nursery rhymes, 8 original songs, a database of over 20 national resources for managing stress for low-income families, a point system to incentivize use, and all of this in English and Spanish… For the next several months my video camera was like an appendage as I filmed as many families as I could and edited video instead of sleeping. Somehow, with the help of an amazingly talented computer programmer, we completed the app enough to Beta test it and I presented it to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on September 22nd and low and behold, I progressed to the next round. Now there are five of us competing for the grand prize of $100,000. I present again in March after I roll the app out on a large scale and complete additional testing.
So, my app, The Word Gap App is not completely finished yet, as we are still working on the Spanish part of it, but I hope to have it in itunes and Google Play in the next few weeks for download on all devices.
In the mean time, please check out my website www.thewordgapapp.com.
If you have a child under the age of three and would be interested in testing my app and you have an iphone or ipad, I can send you an invite to download it early on test flight ( a free app from itunes) Just e-mail me your e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you an invite.
The word gap is such an important topic! Children all over out country are not given a fair chance, starting kindergarten already behind their peers simply because their parents didn’t know the importance of interacting with them, or the stress in their life prevented them from adequately interacting with their babies. As a parent, I feel strongly that when we know better, we do better and I want to educate parents so they know better and they can give all their babies the best start possible. We are our children’s first teachers and it is a critically important job. Recent studies show that children who fall victim to the word gap have a lower rate of literacy, graduating high school, and getting a job, and sadly, higher rates of crime and incarceration. It is a public health crisis, yet so easy to fix. Simple education can fix this problem. Please help me spread the word. The word about the word gap and the importance of interacting with babies from the moment they are born. Please share my blog. Please download my app in a few weeks and please, please talk, read, sing to your babies all day long!