Archive for the ‘Language development’ Category

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

This blog was originally published on July 24, 2013.

Libraries and museums can engage, teach and delight children. But too often these institutions are not part of the policy conversation about early education.

A new report – “Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners” – calls for tapping and investing in more of the strengths and knowledge of these vibrant institutions.

“Libraries and museums can play a stronger role in early learning for all children,” the report says. “As our nation commits to early learning as a national priority essential to our economic and civic future, it is time to become more intentional about deploying these vital community resources to this challenge.”

The report comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

The nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums have 10 key strengths, according to the report, among them:

- Museums and libraries provide high-quality, easily accessed early education programs that engage and support parents in being their children’s first teachers. (more…)

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14359821987_be01fd4731_mYesterday, The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 25th edition of its KIDS COUNT Data Book, a statistical look at children’s well-being.

The report shows that, “Children have a greater opportunity to thrive and succeed in Massachusetts than in any other state,” according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), the home of KIDS COUNT here in the commonwealth.

This is exciting news for Massachusetts, but it comes with an important caveat: There is still much more work to do.

The Massachusetts KIDS COUNT data profile reports that 15 percent of the state’s children lived in poverty in 2012. And despite being first in the nation in education and fourth grade reading, 53 percent of this state’s fourth graders cannot read proficiently. Thirty percent of children have parents who don’t have secure jobs. And while an impressive 99 percent of Massachusetts’s children have health insurance, it’s also true that this state’s children are as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as children across the country.

MassBudget released the new data yesterday at an event hosted by Nurtury (formerly Associated Early Care and Education) in its brand new Learning Lab in Jamaica Plain where Governor Deval Patrick spoke, along with state legislators, local leaders, and Chris Martes, Strategies for Children’s new president and CEO. (more…)

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Photo: Courtesy of Brain Building in Progress

Illustration: Courtesy of Brain Building in Progress

Don’t settle for just commuting on the T’s buses and trains. If you’re traveling with a child, use the trip to help build that child’s brain.

“When you ride the T this summer, you may see this ‘I am a Brain Builder’ ad highlighting teachable moments for parents and children while they ride public transit,” according to the Brain Building on the T website.

That ad is part of a campaign that was launched on Monday by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley – both leaders of the state’s Brain Building in Progress effort.

Brain Building in Progress is a public/private partnership “to raise awareness of the critical importance of fostering the cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children by emphasizing its future impact on the economic prosperity of everyone in Massachusetts.”

Commuters can see the brain building ads on Orange and Red Line trains as well as on several bus routes. They are scheduled to run through the summer. (more…)

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This blog was originally published on September 13, 2012. 

The folks at the First Five Years Fund – who brought us the fabulous “Early Learning Matters” video – have another terrific animated video in their toolkit for advocates of high-quality early education. This time it’s “Brain Builders,” narrated by Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. In the more recent video, Shonkoff uses layman’s terms to explain the complex neurological and molecular interaction between children’s early experiences and the developing architecture of their young brains.

“The healthy development of young children in the early years of life literally does provide a foundation for just about all of the challenging social problems that our society and other societies face,” Shonkoff says. “What we’re learning through exciting developments in neuroscience and molecular biology is how much early experience from birth – in fact, even before birth – how much this experience literally gets into our bodies and shapes our learning capacities and behaviors and physical and mental health. The brain is basically built from the bottom up. First, the brain builds basic circuits and more complex circuits are built on top of those basic circuits as we develop more complex skills. Biologically the brain is prepared to be shaped by experience. It is expecting the experiences that a young child has to literally influence the formation of its circuitry.”

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

On Thursday, 9:30 a.m., March 27, 2014, at the Boston Children’s Museum, Strategies for Children is hosting the third event in its “Leading the Conversation” series on improving children’s literacy skills. It’s a panel discussion on “Designing and Implementing Effective Volunteer Efforts Focused on Literacy.”

Although Massachusetts is a national leader in education, 43% of our third grade students score below proficient in reading. Even more alarming, the commonwealth has a wide achievement gap, and third grade scores have been stagnant for 13 years.

Communities are addressing this crisis in a variety of ways, including engaging volunteers to support children’s early literacy and language development. In fact, in the U.S., volunteers gave 7.9 billion hours of service in 2012, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Despite this significant effort, too many of our services are not substantial enough or coordinated enough to result in reading improvements. If recruited, utilized, and managed effectively, however, volunteers can have a real impact on children’s literacy outcomes.

About the Volunteer Event

In a moderated discussion, panelists will highlight and showcase the volunteer research and current best practices for maximizing volunteers’ impact on children’s (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

A new report published by the Society for Research in Child Development — “Multilingual Children: Beyond Myths and Toward Best Practices” — focuses on “the strength of being multilingual and its benefit for children’s later outcomes and well-being.”

Endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the report draws on more than 100 studies. “The qualitative review concludes that multilingualism is an advantage to be nurtured and maintained rather than a risk factor to be eradicated early in a child’s life,” Education Week explains in a recent review of the report.

In the Education Week piece, Allyssa McCabe, a lead author and a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, debunks two myths covered in the report. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

It’s no wonder that constantly moving infants and toddlers wear out their parents. As Conor P. Williams, the dad of a baby and a toddler, writes at Ed Central, a New America Foundation blog: These busy babies have even busier brains that are forming 700 new neural pathways per second.

“Like most young parents of very young children, my wife and I are only barely keeping up with these two creatures that have a combined age that is still younger than most of the T-shirts in my dresser,” Williams writes.

“This is the paradox of young children,” Williams explains. On the one hand “they are weak, incomplete beings just learning the basics of being alive.” But on the other hand, developing infants and toddlers “display patience, resilience and flexibility well beyond adults’ capacities.”

The good news about these mile-a-minute children is that they’re teaching neuroscientists and policymakers about the importance of early brain development — and how crucial it is for children to get needed stimulation before the age of four. (more…)

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“The advice I give mothers is to have conversations with your babies… Children can hear lots of talk that goes over their head in terms of the meaning, and they still benefit from it.”

Erika Hoff, psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University, in “More Talking to Babies Helps Their Brains,” an Associated Press story in the Washington Post, February 13, 2014

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

National Public Radio reported on the “word gap” last month. The story is a potent reminder of how research on young children’s development can be used to shape public discourse and inform policy solutions. Click here to listen.

In its report, NPR retold the research story that started in the early 1990s when Betty Hart and Todd Risley found that by age 3, lower income children hear 30 million fewer words than their higher-income peers. “Today, despite years of focus and effort, the word gap is just as wide,” NPR’s Jennifer Ludden said in the broadcast story.

How does the word gap play out in everyday settings? At the Apple Tree Early Learning Public Charter School in Washington, DC, NPR interviewed principal Ryan Tauriainen who explained that some children use the word “dog” to refer to all animals because they don’t know the words for other animals. Tauriainen added that some children only speak in one-word answers, while others speak in paragraphs. Jack McCarthy, Apple Tree’s president, echoes the Hart and Risley research, telling NPR that children with smaller vocabularies invariably come from lower income homes.

“I recognized that we need to really start in the cradle,” Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, R.I. told NPR. As we’ve written, Taveras is about to launch Providence Talks, a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that builds off of the seminal Hart Risley research to impact the early language development of young children throughout the community.

The word gap has been getting lots of attention in recent months, from the New York Times, Atlantic Cities, Stanford University, and Hillary Clinton to name a few.

The recent increase in high-profile conversation about early language development is a welcome one. In an upcoming blog post, we will further explore the research behind the word gap and take a look at various policy and programmatic strategies that are emerging to address it.

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

“The time is now to redesign this country’s approach to language and literacy instruction, and governors who choose to can lead the charge,” according to the National Governors Association (NGA) report, “A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy: Getting all Students Reading by Third Grade.

Acknowledging the fact that only one-third of America’s fourth graders are reading proficiently, the report points out that America’s governors can help address this challenge. They can build a bridge between knowledge and action, connecting what researchers know to what policymakers do.

What the Research Says

To provide the research background on the literacy issue, the report points to three widely accepted research findings:

1.  “Starting at kindergarten is too late.” Because literacy skills start developing at birth and because achievement gaps show up early, infants, toddlers and preschoolers need effective, high-quality early education and care programs that introduce early literacy concepts.

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