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Posts Tagged ‘Language development’

How to Raise a Reader, According to Experts and Parents

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Want your child to fall in love with reading? We asked parents, teachers, and librarians for their tips for inspiring kids to read.

Everyone wants his or her kid to grow up to be a great reader. After all, childhood reading skills have even been shown to predict success not just in school, but also later in life. It isn’t too hard to get a child to read. But fostering a love of reading? That’s the hard part.

You can tip the scales in your little reader’s favor though. Learn how to raise a reader by following these expert tips.

Stock Up on Books

Having a home library—even a small one—is a big deal, especially when it comes to raising readers. Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between the number of books in a household and kids’ overall educational outcomes. In other words, kids whose parents keep books in the house have a big advantage. This is because when kids are constantly exposed to books, they become a normal part of everyday life.

“I have always had books in the house,” says Jaime Herndon, a writer and parent. “I read to Micah when he was in utero, read to him as an infant, and he’s always reached for books. They’ve become part of the everyday for him, and he ‘reads’ at least 2-3 books a day, plus our nightly reading.”

Lead by Example

The best way to raise a reader is to read yourself. Don’t do it secretly. Read where your kids can see you. If your kids think that reading is something adults don’t do, they might be less inclined to do it as they get older.

“Modeling” what to do is one of the best ways to teach any behavior, because kids love to copy adults—especially their parents.

“Adults need to model reading for children,” advises Carol Ann Moon, reference and instructional outreach librarian at St. Leo University in Florida. “I read because I had many models in my family.”

Read to Your Kids

You can also model by reading aloud to your kids. Making reading a group activity has several benefits. Kids not only learn to love reading because it’s something they do with the people they love, but they also learn how to pronounce the words they see on the page and pick up reading fluency skills, too.

When they’re old enough, ask your kids to read books aloud to you. If they’re nervous, get them to read to the family pet instead. Dogs are fantastic listeners.

“I read to [my son] Prose and now he wants to read me the books,” says author and mom Fabienne Josaphat. “It’s amazing how he can’t read yet—he’s only 3—but he memorizes the lines, and he recites them. … I try to put down my phone more and show him that I am either paying attention to him or reading.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting to read out loud to your child at birth.

Engage Kids’ Natural Curiosity

If you’ve been raising a reader, they may already think of books as sources of fun. Still, they may not know the variety of books out there. So when you’re out and about and your child starts asking questions about the world around her, make note.

“When [my children and I] are doing other things and become curious, we make an effort to learn more by finding a book on the topic on our next trip to the library,” says Kelli Casey, a secondary reading and English language arts resource teacher. By doing this, Casey shows her kids that nonfiction books are great resources for learning new things.

Make Reading a Habit

Just like with many other healthy things, reading becomes second nature to kids when they make it a habit. As a parent, you can foster a reading habit early by setting out a time each day to share a book with your child. Habits are made and kept by repetition, so try your best not to skip a day, even when you’re busy.

“Some nights I’m just so tired, but I remember that I don’t want [my son] to lose interest in reading,” says Donna Ho, a mom and former language arts teacher. “So I suck it up and read to him. When he asks to read a second book, I do.”

 

This article was written by Rebecca Renner from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Easy Ways to Expand Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

From baby talk to reading aloud during infancy to walking around the house pointing at and describing inanimate objects (“Look! Mommy’s coffeeeeee”), there is almost nothing you can do that won’t help a baby develop speech. Still, for proactive parents looking to expedite the process—or anyone worried about a speech delay—we asked speech pathologist and pediatric social communication expert Kelly Lelonek for tips on how to recognize a need for early intervention or simply enhance childrens’ language skills. A precocious chatterbox on the first day of nursery school? Now you’re talking.

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Q) What’s the age that kids should typically be moving from one-word utterances to two?

 A) Most children start to combine words between 18 and 24 months. They start to use two- and three-word combinations (“Pet the bunny” or “Wow, big dog!”) around this age. By 24 months, most children use between 50 and 200 words.

Q) Does birth order impact on how fast or slow a child may be to speak? 

The effect of a child’s birth order on emerging language is still under debate. There is no evidence of language delays being seen more often in later-born children. Birth order likely creates different language learning environments for each child, none of which are detrimental.

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Q) Without being alarmist, what could be some of the reasons a child’s speech isn’t “exploding” between 18 months and two years? 

Developmental speech and language disorder is a common reason for speech and language delays in children. A child’s hearing should always be tested. Intellectual disability could also cause speech and language delays. [Ask your pediatrician for a referral to an early interventionist if you suspect any of this is at play.]

Q) What are some of the easiest ways parents can improve their kids’ vocabularies and help them express longer, more complex thoughts?

First, a parent should determine what is missing in the child’s vocabulary. A child must have 50-plus words before they will start to combine them. Check to see if your child has nouns, verbs, adjectives, possessives, negatives and question words. Then, use the strategy of “expansion.” This is when you take the words your child says, repeat them, then add a missing word. For example, the child says “Dog” and you repeat back, “Big dog.” You can do this multiple times and add different words each time. A parent’s goal should be to help the child reach just the next level of complexity.

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Q) When is the ideal time to “work” on this?

During bath time, feeding time, while reading books or playing. Really, anytime throughout the day!

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The Easy Way Busy Parents Can Boost Their Kid’s Language Skills

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It’s not just talking to them a lot.

When teaching kids language skills, it makes sense to expose them to as many words as possible through lots and lots of talking. However, a new study found a strategy that may be even more effective.

Research published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that back-and-forth conversations make more of an impact in developing Broca’s area, the region of the brain most closely associated with speech, than teaching kids many words, Scientific American reports.

The study, led by John Gabrieli, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, involved 36 children, ages 4 to 6, from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Researchers first used standardized tests to evaluate the children’s verbal ability, then evaluated kids’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while the child listened to 15-second stories. Finally, they examined the communication at home between adults and kids for two days, measuring adult and child speech, and back-and-forth verbal exchanges separated by no more than five seconds, called “conversational turns.”

During the experiments, researchers found that a child’s verbal ability score increased by one point with every additional 11 conversational turns per hour.

For Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Psy.D., the director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University, who was not involved in the study, the new findings provide a much-needed missing link in our understanding of language and learning. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek tells Scientific American, “We have known for quite a while that conversational turns—or what in my work we call conversational duets—are very important for building a foundation for language and maybe for learning generally. What hadn’t been done is to link it where we knew it had to be linked—to changes in the brain.”

The research confirms that parents should do do more than just babble at kids; it’s also about connecting with them and encouraging them to engage. “If we learn better how to follow the eyes of our child and comment on what they are looking at, we will have strong language learners,” Hirsh-Pasek says. “And language is the single-best predictor of school readiness—in math, social skills and reading skills. It is the foundation for learning.”

According to Scientific American, the findings confirm the conclusion of several studies suggesting that socioeconomic status is related to the number of words a child learns in their developing years, namely that there is a 30-million-word gap between the poorest and the richest children. The study is also noteworthy because it indicates that conversational turns have a stronger correlation to the development of Broca’s area than a child’s socioeconomic status.

It may be good news for busy working parents. Instead of drilling your kids with tedious flashcards to improve their vocabulary, have a fun and meaningful conversation instead.

 

This article was written by Maria Zaldivar from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Language and Literacy Series: Reclaiming the Joy of Reading in the Age of Distraction

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University. This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog

My own love of reading was cultivated in an era with fewer distractions than today. At that time, all of our play was physical and concrete – we played with hands-on toys and games, we rode bicycles and played outside (which held opportunities for all sorts of mischief). I recall putting on plays, having visceral experiences with art supplies, some television, and boys readinglots of books. Reading offered both privacy and companionship, an opportunity to focus and contemplate, but also indulge the imagination.

I realize now that there was a special kind of innocence wrapped up in these memories. During my own childhood, distraction was the murmur of the radio or television, or the sight of something fleeting that simply “caught your eye.” Things are different today. Adults and children are caught in a blizzard of digital noise streaming from various devices that constantly compete for our attention, disrupting our focus. There is no doubt that this new reality has impacted the way we read and engage with books.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist best known for spotlighting emotional intelligence, has noted that the deluge of distractions can have far-reaching effects. Speaking to KQED’s Forum, he explained “because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, [and] we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention.”

According to Goleman, the neural circuitry that registers attention in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is identical to the circuits that govern executive functioning, which includes the ability to manage distressing emotions and to feel empathy.

Medical research has identified clinical conditions that may interfere with a child’s ability to focus, but to tackle real-world distractions, there are things we can do at home and in the classroom to minimize the noise and create an environment conducive to experiencing the magic of reading.

With this in mind, what can we do to foster a love of reading in our children that stems simply from the sheer pleasure and joy that a great story provides?

Here are five easy ways to create a distraction-free reading zone for kids.

  1. Create a Dedicated Reading Space: Create a reading environment free of clutter. The fewer objects that can capture your child’s attention, the better.
  2. Get Comfy: Have a comfortable chair or cushion for children and adult readers to sit on. The physical comfort helps kids relax their bodies, which in turn facilitates attention and focus.
  3. Start a Reading Ritual: Ritualize the opportunity to read. For very young children, the ritual of a bedtime story is the enchanting portico that leads to more reading. Consecrating the event early on acknowledges that reading time is special, even as children get older and read on their own. Having a special hat to wear or a pillow to sit on just for reading designates that reading time is distinct from other activities.
  4. Take Time to Share: Give your child ample opportunity to share what they have read. Remember, a joy shared is doubled! Ask some simple questions about your child’s reading experience to encourage engagement: Who was your favorite character? What did you like about the story? How did the book make you feel?
  5. Be a Reading Role Model: Model a love of reading. Whether you show your kids the stack of books on your night table, or point out how much you love to read the newspaper with your morning coffee, highlighting the ways that reading enriches your life will help them understand the importance and enjoyment of literacy.

It is important for adults to find some quiet space amidst the distractions as well. I heard a story the other day that offered a vivid reminder of this concept: A four-year-old girl learned how to make the color green in school, mixing yellow and blue paints to create a series of green hues. With carbonated excitement, she couldn’t wait to show her father. But when he came home, he was concentrating on his cell phone. He finished a call and then began to text. The child’s efforts to capture his attention were futile until, with her art work in one hand, she gave a good, hard tug on the leg of his pants. Her father then looked down and said, “Sara, what are you doing down there?” To which she replied, “Daddy, I live down here.”

To create an environment that is conducive to concentration, young children need our undivided attention. By finding and nurturing those simple moments of focus, we can enjoy “living” in our children’s worlds and be present as they share in ours.

Language and Literacy Series: Talking with our Hands – A Hidden Key to Learning!

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

It just amazes me the way newborn babies come into the world as natural communicators. After their first wail, they exhibit an increasing variety of gestures and sounds; quickly becoming full-bodied, kinesthetic communicators, successfully letting us know their needs and desires through a barrage of gestures and gesticulations.

Throughout his/her early growth spurts, a young child’s gesture vocabulary expands in complex and Handsfascinating ways.  Children begin with what is called deictic gestures (pointing at actual objects), and metaphoric gestures (movements in space to represent an abstract idea, such as gesturing upward to indicate “high”).  Then, as their use of language and vocabulary become more fluid, they begin to slowly connect words to objects and abstract thoughts.  Little ones form a fully integrated relationship between gestures and words as they grow from toddlers to preschoolers. This relationship with language will continue to be refined throughout life.

Recent research in language acquisition has revealed just how important gestures are in supporting word acquisition, as well as in other learning areas, including math.  The Goldin-Meadow Laboratory at the University of Chicago, headed by Susan Goldin-Meadow, is an important research hub for the exploration of the role and value of gestures. The lab focuses on topics related to cognition, development, education and linguistics, including the study of non-verbal communication, like gestures.

In a 2011 TexXUChicago TED Talk, Goldin-Meadow makes the case that gestures not only reveal what is on a child’s mind, but can also help change a child’s mind in order to support instruction and learning. This exciting discovery reinforces and supports our innate impulse to use gesture as a way to convey meaning.

Families can play an active role in word recognition and vocabulary skills simply by incorporating gestures, creative movement and meaningful play experiences into a child’s world, whether at home or on the go! Here are five easy activities that use gesture to generate vocabulary practice and boost literacy skills over time.

  1. Trust your instincts: Use your own hands to gesture with your children.  It’s not clowning around, it’s communicating! And nothing works better than modeling.
  2. Words and actions go together: When reading, encourage your child to point to images and identify them not only with words and sounds, but also by making shapes with their hands/bodies.
  3. Sing along: When in the car, play simple songs that encourage children to use gesture and movement. There are a ton of great silly songs – remember “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”?
  4. Play: Encourage make-believe play where kids are given the opportunity to pretend and act out ideas.
  5. Practice: Try ‘Simon Says’ using gestures.  Practice is fun and it reinforces word and object recognition.

Whether you start with simple hand gestures or animated body language, by incorporating these elements into play and daily routine, you’ll be supporting your child’s literacy growth right in your own home!

Language and Literacy Series: Context, Conversation and Non-Verbal Clues

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

Young children are natural experts when it comes to learning critical skills. Unlike ot072O4649her mammals, babies need adult help for nearly everything. In their first year, while kittens are already batting at mice and colts are walking on their own, young humans are studying and mimicking their parents. Children come to understand that their survival depends on learning from their families and environments. As they acquire language skills, little ones become attuned to using words and gestures to help express what they feel and to get what they need.

In 1995, University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley published a seminal study on vocabulary acquisition in preschool aged children, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. Hart and Risley spent over two years studying the lives of 42 families of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, discovering substantial differences in how families spoke with children and how many words children were exposed to regularly. This research underscored the core principle that exposure to language early and often is crucial in preparing young children for success and closing achievement gaps at the elementary school level.

But language is not only about verbal skills and words. Context, gesture and environmental awareness are key factors in the way humans communicate, and young learners pay close attention here as well.

Erica Cartmill, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCLA, has produced fascinating research on the dynamic relationship between early social interactions and infant communicative development. Her research reinforces the theory that preschool vocabulary is a major predictor of school success, with particular focus on the role that both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication play in language acquisition. She notes that gesture in particular is an essential tool for children before they are fluid with verbal language.

As we can easily imagine, most of the words very young children acquire are derived from their parents’ vocabulary. But more than hearing words, the non-verbal clues that parents give toddlers about words are part of the context of learning, and influence the depth of children’s vocabularies upon entering school.

As parents and caregivers, we can take advantage of the experiences we share with our children to support language acquisition, especially if we keep in mind their perspective.

Here are our top six practical, everyday suggestions to help boost vocabulary in early learners:

  • See Something, Say Something: Describe things that are happening as they are happening, e.g. “Here comes a dog,” as opposed to “We’re going to see a dog.” Children have been shown to learn words more quickly when they can see and feel the object, as opposed to an abstract word with no apparent context.
  • Be Descriptive: Encourage children to describe what they see. Typically when we point out objects to young children, for example a cow, car, boat, etc., we get stuck on nouns. Invite descriptions including shape and color (adjectives) and movement (verbs).
  • Practice Anytime, Anywhere: Take advantage of time in the car or at the supermarket to practice word play, pointing out objects of interest as you talk about them to help provide immediate context and explanation.
  • Provide Feedback: Reflect back what children say to you. This confirms their experience and affirms their ability to have a successful conversation.
  • Use Non-Verbal Clues: Remember; children are sensitive to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and other non-verbal actions, both in conversation and in educational situations.
  • Offer Positive Reinforcement: When children are pointing at people or objects, validate and name them.

Practical Steps for Language Development

  • If your child is not talkative, pay close attention.  Quiet toddlers mean something with their quietness.  Is your child engaged in work, needing to remain verbally still to focus her effort?  Are they not enthusiastic enough about conversation in general?  Are you?  Are they temperamentally quiet?  Are you doing too much talking, or not enough?  Get yourself to think about it.  It generally helps quiet kids to gently encourage them to converse.  Humor is especially helpful for the shy ones, but never mock or shame their attempts at speech.
  • Reading - Infant & Teacher AFollow your toddler’s lead, and get on his bandwagon when he’s on a roll.  Narrate the scene and describe his own behavior back to him; “Sam loves to…,” or “Sam is sad his Mommy has to leave…,” or “Sam is so happy to play with his blocks.”  Don’t overdo, but do.  It shows your toddler that you understand him and appreciate his inner world, not just his blue eyes.  Soon enough it will be dialogue.
  • Funny as early speech may sound, don’t exploit the humor of it at your child’s expense.  Whenever a new skill emerges, it is at its most raw and tender (remember your first public poetry recital?).  Stuttering and stammering are normal when children are learning to speak.  Treat early language with the respect it deserves.  It has taken tremendous effort to get here.  Say it back correctly if you figure out what it is, but don’t “correct” too much.  Be patient.  She won’t be saying much if her first words always are being corrected.
  • Allow quiet play.  This may seem paradoxical when language is the goal, but rest and reflection that are restorative and interesting become important when so much effort is being expended in new skill.
  • Talk about your own feelings and how they got that way in a simple and straightforward manner.  Children who have never heard their parents talking about how or what they are feeling on a day-to-day basis face an uphill climb to develop useful understandings about language and emotion.  Say things like, “I felt happy to get that nice letter from Grandma…” or “It scared me when the truck got so close.”  Simple, clear, and to the point.  The feeling in your voice will capture your toddler’s interest, so don’t be too surprised to see her staring at you at first.  It gives her the words to match the emotion she reads in you and will eventually identify in herself.
  • Read, read, and read some more.  To them, to yourself, to each other.  Then talk about what you read.  It is the organic garden where new words grow.

Read to Me

It is generally agreed among educators that one of the best things adults can do for their children is to read to them.

Parent Tips:teaacher_girl_pink

  • During early infancy, reading helps babies build neural pathways that will eventually provide language development and acquisition.
  • Reading aloud to children encourages association with happiness, love and enjoyment. All of this can lead to children’s greater interest in reading and can result in larger vocabularies and better literary skills.
  • Choose a childcare environment that encourages storytime as an important aspect of the school’s routine.
  • Reading aloud to children also helps them with pronunciation and phonetics. Some children are able to recognize letters and numbers before they can speak, but if they are left to this without guidance their weaknesses can lie in pronunciation and sounding out words.
  • When children speak incorrectly they should be gently corrected so that they are encouraged to use proper grammar and pronunciation. Reading books can help children learn the proper format of sentences which they often mistake in late toddlerhood.
  • Children who are read to regularly, are more likely to continue reading throughout their lives.
  • Children who read are more likely to have better writing skills and be placed in higher level classes.