Archive for the ‘Language development’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children


Library story times are getting well-deserved media attention for helping young children build early literacy skills and develop social skills.

A recent New York Times article on story time, says:

“Forty strollers were double- and triple-parked on the main floor of the Fort Washington Library in Upper Manhattan. As another one came through the door, Velda Asbury waved toward a spot beside a book stack.

“Officially, Ms. Asbury is a library clerk, checking books in and out. But every Wednesday she doubles as a parking attendant during one of the New York Public Library’s most popular programs: story time.”

The Times explains that story time, like a hot Broadway show, is drawing huge crowds because “more than ever, educators are emphasizing the importance of early literacy in preparing children for school and for developing critical thinking skills. The demand crosses economic lines, with parents at all income levels vying to get in.” (more…)

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“Your heart and lungs come out fully developed when you are born, but the brain is completely dependent on what it encounters on its ride to full development, and especially in the first three years there’s a huge amount of brain development that occurs: 80 to 85 percent of the physical brain will be developed in that time. And that brain is absolutely dependent on the language input, parent talk, and interaction, which is the key catalyst for creating those neural connections. A lot of people think of parent talk as just a way to build children’s vocabulary. But in truth, because it has such a fundamental impact on all the brain wiring, parent talk impacts all of brain function, from memory, emotion, to stability, [self-regulation], [to] spatial and math [skills].”

“Going back to our research program and our curriculum development, we’ve culled it down to what we call the Three T’s, which is Tune in, Talk More, and Take Turns. So Tune In is really following your child’s lead, seeing what your child is interested in. Talking More is talking more about it using rich vocabulary, narrating your child’s day. Taking Turns is really viewing your child as a conversational partner and having a conversation back and forth.”

“We need to really think about what education in this country looks like. We need to align our policy with our science. And science is pretty clear that learning begins on day one, not the first day of school. The only way we’re going to ever move this needle is starting from day one.”

Dr. Dana Suskind, a pediatric neurosurgeon and cochlear implant specialist at the University of Chicago, in a Boston Globe interview, “Thirty million little words for a lifetime of difference,” October 9, 2015

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“Since 2004, Tennessee has offered state-subsidized prekindergarten, enrolling more than 18,000 of the state’s neediest 4-year-olds. An early evaluation showed that, as you’d expect, youngsters who attended pre-K made substantial gains in math, language and reading. But, startlingly, the gains had evaporated by the end of kindergarten…”

“Have the claims made for early education been overblown? Not necessarily. Consider what’s happening in Boston. A randomized study showed that prekindergartners there gained between four and seven months’ progress in reading and math, and those gains persisted: 27 percent more of Boston’s preschool children scored ‘proficient’ or better on the state’s rigorous third-grade exams.

“What’s the difference between Boston and Tennessee? In a word, quality.”

“Does Pre-K Make Any Difference?” a New York Times opinion piece by David Kirp, professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, October 3, 2015


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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Talk to your baby, and you’ll improve public health.

That’s the goal in Georgia where officials have launched an initiative called “Talk With Me Baby,” to motivate parents to have conversations that could improve their children’s lifetime outcomes.

Georgia is out to close the word gap that researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley wrote about in the 1990s. They estimated that affluent children hear some 30 million more words than their less affluent peers. The two tried to close this gap by working with 4-year-olds. But they realized that their efforts were coming too late in children’s lives.

To close the word gap, researchers increasingly say, start with babies.

“Right now, Georgia is the only state taking such a coordinated, widespread, public-health-focused approach to reducing the word gap,” according to an online Atlantic article called, “Why Boosting Poor Children’s Vocabulary Is Important for Public Health.”

“There are more isolated efforts in places like Chicago and Providence, Rhode Island, but they operate on a much smaller scale.” Nonetheless, this growing awareness and action shows how communities with targeted public policies and programs can help close the word gap.  (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Families are vital to children’s success, especially children who are dual language learners (DLLs), according to a recent brief from Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty. The brief looks at how early education and care programs can better engage the parents of linguistically diverse families.

In “Supporting Parent Engagement in Linguistically Diverse Families to Promote Young Children’s Learning: Implications for Early Care and Education Policy,” the authors point to a large body of research showing “that varied forms of parent engagement have a positive influence on children’s learning and development.”

“Currently, of the approximately 23 million children in the United States under the age of six years, 8% live in households where no one over the age of 14 is proficient in English,” the brief says. “Young children of immigrants comprise 25 percent of all children under nine years, and 47 percent of foreign born parents of children in this age range report limited English proficiency.”

The brief adds: “Fostering parent engagement in linguistically diverse families during the early childhood period can promote school readiness among children who face higher educational risks, including family poverty and linguistic isolation, while also leveraging key family strengths.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Fall is coming and it’s going to be a busy season for early education and care advocates. There’ll be hearings on important legislation and the crucial work of drafting the budget for fiscal year 2017.

To make the advocacy case, try this useful tool: the 2013 policy brief “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.”

As we blogged earlier this week, the brief is a “review of the current science and evidence base on early childhood education.” Yesterday, we looked at the impact on children’s academic skills and on their socio-emotional development.

In today’s blog, we’ll look at what the brief says about early education’s quality, its long-term outcomes, and its effect on diverse subgroups.


Quality Matters

“Children show larger gains in higher-quality preschool programs,” the brief says, summing up the research. “Higher-quality preschool programs have larger impacts on children’s development while children are enrolled in the program and are more likely to create gains that are sustained after the child leaves preschool.”

“The most important aspects of quality in preschool education are stimulating and supportive interactions between teachers and children and effective use of curricula.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Get ready for the fall. It’s going to be a busy public policy season for early education and care. It’s also going to be a great time for advocates to remind policymakers that the evidence for high-quality early education is strong and growing.

Among the highlights of the coming months, five Massachusetts communities will be expanding pre-K enrollment with the help of a federal Preschool Expansion Grant.

In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing for all bills related to early education and care on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

Several Pre-K bills will be presented, including one filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) called “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education.”

As we’ve blogged, “The bill calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey by providing ‘access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts.’”

To help make the case for increased investments in early learning, it’s always helpful to draw on existing research. A terrific summary of recent research can be found in the 2013 policy brief, “Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education.” The brief was published by the Society for Research in Child Development and the Foundation for Child Development. (more…)

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