It has long been recognised
that vocabulary, not grammar, is the key to a child understanding what they
hear and to successfully communicating their ideas, needs or wants to other

As Wilkins (1972) so eloquently
stated “while without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary
nothing can be conveyed”. For this reason it is vitally important for a child
to quickly build up a large store of words.

Research has shown that the
size of a person’s working vocabulary is both a measure of educational
attainment and a key to academic and career success. Unfortunately, research
also shows marked differences in vocabulary development in students from high
income as well as low income families, with a widening gap during the first
three years in the lives of children.

Much of this can be attributed
to the level of verbal interaction that children have with their parents and it
is significant to note that researchers have found a difference of almost 300
spoken words per hour between parents who hold professional positions and
parents on welfare. As a result, by the age of three, children in
“professional” families actually had a larger vocabulary than the
parents with low-incomes (Hart and Risley 1995).

Against this background, it is
clear that it is of paramount importance for every parent and teacher to ensure
that there are adequate strategies in place for fostering vocabulary
development at an early stage.