[RFHF] In the News: Bridging the Word Gap, One Baby at a Time

Katie Anderson katie.anderson at state.or.us
Thu Jun 26 09:02:45 PDT 2014


This morning I received two emails containing news about national initiatives that are encouraging parents and caregivers to talk, read (tell stories), and sing with babies and toddlers.



Here are a few highlights I copied and pasted from the articles that relate to the early literacy work we do. Below is a link to one article and the full text of the other.



*         Research has taught us that one important factor associated with disparities is the frequency and quality of adult-child interactions, both parent-child and teacher-child interactions. "Parent talk"-described as how often adults talk and engage in back and forth interactions with young children- is an especially important practice for "brain building" and reducing the earliest disparities.

*         A compelling and widely cited study found that in the first three years of life, children from low-income households heard roughly 30 million fewer words and engaged in fewer back-and-forth conversations than their higher-income peers (Hart & Risley, 2003). This gap in what is heard has consequences for what is learned.

*         Bridging the gap in baby-directed talk is a challenging but conquerable task. The good news is, talking, singing, and interacting with babies is free and reading is low cost. [Reading is FREE when families can walk to a public library!]

*         The American Academy of Pediatrics issued its first official position on literacy<http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20140624/pediatrics-group-wants-parents-to-read-to-their-children-every-day> this week, telling pediatricians to advise parents to read aloud to their children every day, starting at birth.

*         But Oregon, led by Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden<http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2013/09/nancy_golden_replacing_rudy_cr.html>, plans to barrage parents of young children with a slightly different message: Talk, sing and tell stories with your babies, toddlers and preschoolers every day.

*         The difference is an important one that Oregon leaders learned by listening to parents and cultural leaders in diverse Oregon communities, including low-income, rural, Latino and Native American [leaders]

*         A campaign that emphasizes reading books to babies and young children could sound off-putting, [Nancy] Golden says. But you don't have to sit down with your child and read highbrow literature to build crucial pre-literacy skills, she says. Talking while playing outside, singing silly songs, making up rhymes and telling stories all do that, she says.

*         [The Oregon Education Investment Board] plan to kick off a campaign this fall promoting singing, talking and storytelling as the best way for families to help their young children prepare for kindergarten.

*         Getting all students to read well by the end of third-grade is Golden's No. 1 priority



Here are a couple things these articles made me think about in our practice:

*         Encouraging caregivers to tell stories may be more culturally appropriate than pushing book reading (although we hope they'll start reading too!).

*         Storytelling is in important activity that fosters the development of early literacy skills and should be encouraged.

*         Wordless picture books are great tools to help adults who aren't comfortable with their storytelling skills get started. They may also be great way to encourage parents who "expect teachers to shoulder the load of teaching reading" to start sharing books with their young children.

*         Research continues to indicate that in-person adult-child interactions are critical to early learning. Many professionals disagree about the use of technology in early learning; especially with children 2-6 years old. Regardless of where we stand on this issue, it's important to remember that the adult-child interaction, or lack of them, around whatever learning tool or experience is going to have the most significant impact on early learning.



What did these two articles make you think about in our practice?




Katie Anderson, Library Development Services
* Youth Services Consultant * Oregon Center for the Book Coordinator *
Oregon State Library, 250 Winter St. NE, Salem, OR 97301
katie.anderson at state.or.us<mailto:katie.anderson at state.or.us>, 503-378-2528

[Fizz Boom Read][Girlandcloud]
Summer Reading 2014 at Oregon libraries<http://libdir.osl.state.or.us/>!
Find a summer food site<http://www.summerfoodoregon.org/>.









DOCTORS SAY 'READ' DAILY TO BABIES AND TODDLERS, BUT OREGON SAYS 'TELL STORIES' (Portland Oregonian) http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2014/06/doctors_say_read_daily_to_babi.html#incart_river



The American Academy of Pediatrics issued its first official position on literacy this week, telling pediatricians to advise parents to read aloud to their children every day, starting at birth.



[cid:image001.jpg at 01CF6319.E82B7C90]
Bridging the Word Gap, One Baby at a Time

By Shantel Meek, PhD, Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Development


Today, the White House released a video message by President Obama<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhC3n7oUm9U> stressing the importance of learning and development in the earliest years of life and pledging his partnership in making sure every single child has access to adequate support, equal opportunity, and a fair shot to fulfill his or her dreams. In particular, he discusses the "thirty million word gap"-- the early disparities between low- and higher- income children in the number of words they hear-- and how high quality early learning experience can help us close that gap. The release of the President's video is part of a campaign organized in partnership with Too Small to Fail<http://toosmall.org/>, a joint initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation<http://www.clintonfoundation.org> and Next Generation<http://thenextgeneration.org/>, to raise awareness of the importance of closing the word gap. Videos by Secretary Hillary Clinton, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Cindy McCain,<http://toosmall.org/news/commentaries/obama-clinton-mccain-and-frist-appeal-to-parents-to-closethewordgap> each focused on the positive influences that the early language environment, characterized by talking, reading, and singing to babies, can have on child outcomes, were also released.

As most of you know, the beginning years of a child's life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success in school and later in life. During these years, children's brains are developing rapidly, influenced by the richness of their experiences at home, in early learning settings, and elsewhere in the community. Unfortunately, not all children get the rich early learning experiences that facilitate school readiness and success later in life. In fact, disparities in cognitive, social, behavioral, and health outcomes, between lower-income children and their more affluent peers, are evident as early as 9 months of age and may grow over time (Halle et al., 2009).

Research has taught us that one important factor associated with disparities is the frequency and quality of adult-child interactions, both parent-child and teacher-child interactions. "Parent talk"-described as how often adults talk and engage in back and forth interactions with young children- is an especially important practice for "brain building" and reducing the earliest disparities. We also know that reading and singing are important contributors to children's early language environments. A compelling and widely cited study found that in the first three years of life, children from low-income households heard roughly 30 million fewer words and engaged in fewer back-and-forth conversations than their higher-income peers (Hart & Risley, 2003). This gap in what is heard has consequences for what is learned. Studies show that children who experience this drought of language in their environment have vocabularies that are half the size of their peers, putting them at a great disadvantage, long before their first day of kindergarten.

But while vocabulary and early language development are critical, we know that the word gap has consequences far beyond the number of words a child knows. Each time a parent or caregiver talks, sings, or reads to- and shares a positive interaction with- a child, it builds and strengthens important connections in their malleable brain, which in turn, impacts learning and child development more broadly, influencing things like social-emotional and cognitive development. Babies do not soak up information from their environment on their own; rather, they learn through actively interacting with their environment, most importantly, the adults in their lives. Talking, singing, and reading to babies are three easy techniques that facilitate these fruitful interactions.

While much of the American public is aware that reading to children is an important activity that should be done regularly, not everyone knows the power of talk and positive back and forth interactions, especially with infants. Now is the perfect time to change that.  Bridging the gap in baby-directed talk is a challenging but conquerable task. The good news is, talking, singing, and interacting with babies is free and reading is low cost. Equipped with awareness and the right information, every parent and teacher has the ability to communicate with their baby and provide a rich and stimulating early environment that will best equip them to succeed in school and realize their full potential.

The Obama Administration is committed to making sure that children have the supports and tools they need to thrive. Join us by helping raise awareness to bridge the word gap so that every child has the earliest possible start to a bright future. To read more about the Administration's work on the word gap, click here.<http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/06/25/empowering-our-children-bridging-word-gap> If you're interested in joining this effort or sharing the great work you're already doing, email us at wordgap at ostp.gov<mailto:wordgap at ostp.gov>.

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