the No Child Left Behind legislation attest. With seeming agreement about what should be done, the time is ripe for investing in research and development on how to do it. How can preschool programs best enrich the oral language skills, including the vocabulary, of young children? How does the answer differ for children ages 3, 4, and 5?
There are examples of interventions for preschool and kindergarten programs that are designed to build children’s capacities with practices that the current knowledge base suggests are important. For classroom purposes, these must be subjected to systematic evaluation to determine whether they are indeed effective—both in general and for subgroups of children (e.g., English-language learners). These practices include the following:
Regular use of read-alouds that focus on engaging children in discussion of the text and that offer opportunities to reuse and to expand on the meaning of the more challenging vocabulary items in the text (e.g., Whitehurst et al., 1994; Lonigan and Whitehurst, 1998; Valdez-Menchaca and Whitehurst, 1992; Beck and McKeown, 2001).
Use of science-, number-, or world-knowledge-focused curricula to raise the quality of talk going on in the classroom and thus on children’s language growth (for examples of such curricula, see National Research Council, 2001b).
Increasing the amount of one-on-one or small group, adult-child conversation during the daily activities of the classroom, since considerable evidence (e.g., Dickinson and Tabors, 2001) suggests that such opportunities are both relatively rare and highly facilitative of children’s language growth.
Professional development programs that provide rich practice-embedded knowledge about vocabulary and oral language development, whether or not paired with explicit guidelines about the use of such activities as dialogic reading, text-talk sessions, science curricula, and so on.