Lititz businesswoman unveils app to help span word gap

By on December 28, 2016

Technology is so much a part of our lives today. Want to pay for metered parking or track your workout? There are apps for that.

Lititz business owner Aimee Ketchum unveiled an app to help bridge the Word Gap in mid-December with Aimee’s Babies’ Word Gap Challenge. It’s currently available in iTunes and will be coming soon to GooglePlay.

Ketchum unveiled the free app, which is in both English and Spanish, to early childhood professionals at the Zero to Three Conference in New Orleans.

“There was a lot of interest in the app, especially since it’s in both English and Spanish,” Ketchum said. “A lot of people there {at the conference} are aware of the word gap; it’s a huge buzzword right now. Studies show that the word gap is a significant problem.”

Aimee Ketchum unveiled her app, Aimee’s Babies Word Gap Challenge, in New Orleans recently at the Zero to Three Conference.

Aimee Ketchum unveiled her app, Aimee’s Babies Word Gap Challenge, in New Orleans recently at the Zero to Three Conference.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)’s website, the word gap is the difference between the number of words children from low-income families are exposed to as compared to children from high-income families. The website indicates that by age three, children from low-income families are hearing 30 million fewer words than those from higher-income families. This gap can influence how young children develop language skills, and affect future performance at school and in careers.

An occupational therapist in the pediatric outpatient rehab and the neonatal intensive care unit at CPRS at the Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center, Ketchum founded Aimee’s Babies, a childhood development company, about a decade ago.

“I do a lot of work with families whose children are affected by the word gap,” she said.

She pointed out that the word gap not only affects low-income families.

“Everyone needs to be aware of the word gap,” she stressed. “Some parents are just not talkative, or do not realize that babies are listening and learning even though they can’t talk.”

Ketchum had brought 3,000 postcards describing Aimee’s Babies’ Word Gap app with her, but she ran out the first day of the conference. With the assistance of her oldest daughter, Marley, she jotted down the name of other interested people, and sent out information to over 12,000 people when she returned from the conference.

“It was amazing to have that much interest,” Ketchum said.

She said that through her appearance at the conference, the app has also come to the attention of the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative. Ketchum has a meeting scheduled with representatives of that organization in New York in mid-January.

She explained that the app opens with a video introduction of the word gap that includes a segment with New England Patriots’ player Patrick Chung telling parents that he regularly reads to his young son, and that it’s a simple thing to do. There’s also information about how the app works.

“There are 200 short videos that show ways in which parents can engage their kids all day long,” said Ketchum. “People often think it’s only about reading book to their kids, but it’s more than that. They can engage their kids during the course of daily activities including cooking, folding laundry, even counting teeth while brushing them.”

The app also contains a database with the words to over 100 nursery rhymes, 10 original songs, and general resources to manage the stress of being a parent.

“My goal is for the app to be a comprehensive resource for parents,” Ketchum said.

Aimee’s Babies’ Word Gap app joins eight other apps offered by Aimee’s Babies. The company also offers DVDs, CDs, and videos and educational materials for parents. She said they were developed to “provide that elusive handbook that every parent wishes that came with their baby.”

To develop an app, she builds video, edits it on the computer, writes copy and then turns it over to a coder.

As one of the five finalists in HRSA’s Word Gap Challenge initiative, Ketchum developed the app as part of the third phase of that program. As a second phase winner, she was awarded $10,000 to create and perform pilot testing on her app. She was selected to move on to the third phase of the challenge in September and was awarded $25,000 for continued development and testing. This phase culminates in March, and the winner will be announced in May. The winner will receive $100,000 and the Department of Health will market the winning entry.

She’s working with Franklin & Marshall College to do surveys and host focus groups. There’s also word tracking — tracking words that babies hear before and after their parents us the app. Currently she’s looking for families with children from newborn to age three who are willing to use the app and complete a questionnaire or attend a focus group or provide feedback. Those wishing to participate may contact Ketchum at aimeek@ptd.net.

Ketchum is also sponsoring a $1,000 essay contest on the word gap that’s open to all high school juniors and seniors in the county who are planning to go to a college or trade school. The essay topic is how their parent(s) or guardian prevented them from falling into the word gap. Deadline for entries is Jan. 25. Details on the contest are available at thewordgapapp.com/scholarship.

For further details on Aimee’s Babies’ Word Gap app, visit thewordgapapp.com.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *