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Investing in our Future: Closing the Word Gap


Investing in our Future: Closing the Word Gap

By Assemblymember Bill Dodd

This month marks the start of Spring, which embodies new growth and presents us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on our growth as a community. Over the last year, we’ve been able to make meaningful progress in California in a number of areas, including creating some of the toughest equal pay laws in the country and supporting education, but there is still much work to be done. As I look ahead, I see closing the word gap as one of our greatest challenges and greatest opportunities.

Studies have shown that when a child enters kindergarten knowing 20,000 words, their odds of academic success and high school graduation are significantly improved. Unfortunately, children coming from low-income households are likely to know only about 2,000 words and will have heard a staggering 30 million fewer words by the time they reach kindergarten. This disparity is what’s known as the word gap.

This gap has a ripple effect on our entire society. Children who enter kindergarten knowing 20,000 words are exponentially more likely to graduate high school, attend college, and have higher incomes as adults. These children are also less likely to become a teen parent or be involved in the criminal justice system.

We know the stakes are high, but we also know that we can close the word gap by investing in early childhood education. That’s why I fought alongside education advocates to expand preschool slots during last year’s budget negotiations, and we increased investments in early learning and child development by more than $265 million. However, thousands of students still lack affordable access to quality preschool, and we must continue to develop and support innovative programs.

If we can reduce the word gap in California, we will see tremendous and lasting long-term benefits. For every dollar spent on early childhood education, the state of California saves seven dollars on future interventions. Closing the word gap is what’s right for our children, what’s right for our economy, and what’s right for our future. Rarely are the benefits of investments so clear and so striking.

As a father and grandfather, I’ve seen firsthand how much children love to learn, and investing in early childhood education can empower them to realize their full potential. When I look at my grandchildren, I can’t help but think of my duty to provide a vibrant future to our next generation. I firmly believe that the best way to ensure this future is by eliminating the word gap.

I will continue working collaboratively with my peers in the legislature to help close the word gap. We can also help close the gap by reading with a child in our life. As the next generation embarks on the road to their future, we need to ensure they are prepared to read the signs along the way.

Assemblymember Bill Dodd represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Solano, Yolo and Colusa Counties. You can learn more about Assemblymember Dodd at