From the Editor  |   February 2012
More Than Just Talk
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  • © 2012 American Speech-Language-Hearing AssociationAmerican Speech-Language-Hearing Association
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Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / From the Editor
From the Editor   |   February 2012
More Than Just Talk
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, February 2012, Vol. 21, 1-2. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2012/ed-01)
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, February 2012, Vol. 21, 1-2. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2012/ed-01)
Since Hart and Risley’s book Meaningful Differences was published in 1995, great concern has been expressed about the differences in the amount of talk children from varying backgrounds experience and in the number of vocabulary words children learn. Many subsequent investigations have supported these findings to different degrees. These studies have led to calls for interventions that educate parents on the importance of talking to their children.
Although I do not dispute that differences exist among socioeconomic status (SES) and racial/ethnic groups, research is needed that goes beyond saying that parents do not talk enough to their children. I contend, along with other researchers, that families from low-income homes and nonmainstream cultures have communicative strengths that are often overlooked in studies that typically use a white, middle-class lens to examine the communicative behaviors of families from other SES groups. Heath’s (1983)  seminal work provides extensive examples of the creative, figurative, and challenging talk that occurred among family members, fictive kin, and young children living in the communities she studied. However, the styles of talk were often not valued or built upon in the classrooms. When describing the children in her classroom, one teacher was quoted as saying, “I would almost think that some of them have a hearing problem; it is as though they don’t hear me ask a question” (Heath, 1983, p. 269). Another said, “The simplest questions are the ones they can’t answer in the classroom; yet on the playground, they can explain a rule for a ballgame or describe a particular kind of bait with no problem. Therefore, I know they can’t be as dumb as they seem in my class” (p. 269). In other words, the children were viewed as deficient because they did not possess the communicative abilities valued at school.
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