united states | what's the word on...

Closing the word gap, one word at a time.

Children’s Education Initiatives in the United States | Accessing the power of words

The average 3-year-old from a welfare family has a vocabulary of about 500 fewer words than has a 3-year-old from a professional family.1

These vocabulary differences have a pronounced effect on children’s ability to learn how to read and ultimately do well in school. Our popular “What’s the Word on the Street?” segments, aired on Sesame Street since 2008, expose kids to the wealth of vocabulary that’s all around them. Supporting the broadcast are Word on the Streetoutreach kits that get children and parents exploring the wonder of words together.

Educational outreach materials follow favorite Sesame Street characters as they rhyme, sing, and play their way into literacy adventures. Word Cards provide vocabulary and definitions from the show that children and parents can talk about at home, along with Introduction Cards that extend the learning into other activities. Our Word Walk guide offers families easy ways to talk and explore throughout their daily routines.

Research shows that using our Word on the Street materials can increase the number of words children know by 78 percent2, a literacy boost that is likely to serve them throughout their education and beyond.

1 Hart, B., & Risley, R. T. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
2 Increase based on words measured. Schiffman, J.; Cohen, D.; Kotler, J.; and Truglio, R. (2008). The Word on Sesame Street Is Vocabulary! Paper presented at the annual conference for the International Communication Association, Montreal, QC, Canada.