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Bridging the Word Gap Challenge

What is the Word Gap and Why do we Need to Address it?

The Word Gap is the large difference in exposure to language for children from low-income families as compared to children from higher-income families. The word gap exists for a number of reasons. High-quality parent/caregiver-child interactions, including parent talk, can be more challenging under difficult circumstances, such as food and economic insecurity, mental and physical health concerns, substance abuse issues, and domestic violence. Millions of American families struggle with these circumstances daily.

Research has shown that talking to infants and young kids really matters. From their very first days of life, children’s brains are developing rapidly, greatly influenced by their early experiences. Unfortunately, children in low-income households often have less enriching early experiences than their more affluent peers, contributing to a disparity in academic readiness long before their first day of school.


How Can we Bridge the Gap?

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau has recently announced the launch of the Bridging the Word Gap Challenge. Submissions for Phase 1 of the challenge will be accepted beginning November 6th!

The challenge aims to spur innovative solutions that can help improve children’s early-language development and address the word gap.

The goal of the Bridging the Word Gap Challenge is to develop a low-cost, scalable, and technologically-based intervention that drives parents and caregivers to talk – and engage in more back-and-forth interactions – with their young children (ages 0-4). It aims to attract a broad array of innovators to propose creative and effective ideas to address the word gap by encouraging higher frequency and higher quality interaction between parents/caregivers and children.

The launch of the Challenge aligns with the Obama Administration’s Early Learning Initiative, and is one of the activities that supports Milestone 1 of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative- Entering School Ready to Learn.

The entire competition will take place over three phases and one and a half years, with the final winner announced in Spring 2017.

Prizes: Up to $300,000 in total prize amount

  • Phase One (11/06/15-12/ 31/15): 7 – 10 winners, up to $10,000 each
  • Phase Two (2/11/16-7/11/16): 3 - 5 winners; up to $25,000 each
  • Phase Three (8/21/16-2/21/17): 1 final winner; up to $100,000
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