By Heather Moss, Speech Therapist
“What did you say? A common question we ask our babies and toddlers. Very often (if not always) babies develop their own language made up of babbles, coos and eventually words which may be difficult to understand. We want to encourage this and all forms of communication… always! That is, we always want to encourage communication, even if it is not perfect!
What I mean by this is if your child is ‘talking’ and trying to communicate something to you… make sure that you listen and try to communicate back. If your child can’t say the words ‘more peas’, for example, but you know they clearly want you to keep feeding them… a way to encourage them is by modeling what they really mean. ‘Oh you mean… more peas.’ This way, they hear the correct pronunciation and can try saying it again! You can even repeat what they say and then give them the model. You said ‘ma’ oh you want ‘more pees.’
We always want to provide positive reinforcement as it is important to encourage them to keep trying and to communicate their wants and needs. You can say things like ‘good talking’ or ‘let’s say it together.’ Specific feedback is also important so they know to keep trying to communicate with their words. If you are really having difficulty understanding your child, baby sign language is also another tool to use in order to try to encourage or help facilitate communication with your little one until they get more words/sounds. Remember, all forms of communication are great!”
Article Source: The Power of Talking to Your Baby – NYTimes.com
The academic achievement gap between poor and wealthy students is a subject an ACE tutor knows all too well. We work with students to help them achieve reading fluency by 3rd grade because research has shown that after this pivotal year, the gap widens at an alarming rate and can sometimes never be bridged. But as Tina Rosenberg points out in her article, The Power of Talking to Your Baby, this inequality starts long before the 3rd grade. Even in their first year of life, babies from poor families are likely already behind in their ability to learn. So what does this mean when it’s time for them to enter the school system?
In Providence, Rhode Island, the epicenter of the study in this article, it means that only 2 out of 3 children enter kindergarten ready for kindergarten-level reading. It means that the pre-existing gap widens again. Rosenberg seems to think that we have so much trouble closing it because we have so much trouble understanding what causes it in the first place. “What is it about poverty,” she asks, “that limits a child’s ability to learn?” In one case, the answer to early learning might be early talking – and lots of it.
Based on the research of Betty Hart
and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas, by age 3 a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words
in his home environment than from a professional family. The latter group had children with higher IQs and better performance in school after the age of 3. It seemed so simple: a very possible way to close this word gap would be to simply ask disadvantaged families to talk to their children more often. Unfortunately, there was no objective way of measuring this—until the LENA recorder
LENA, or Language Environment Analysis, is an analysis system based on recording software worn inside of children’s clothes. The software can record up to 16 hours of conversation at a time. Not only does this development mean less preventative cost when it comes to observing, transcribing and decoding parent-child conversation, it also means a more verbally accountable parent. When this technology was tested in a study at the University of Chicago, the low-income mothers who participated wanted to know their word count even after the data was compiled and the study ended. “We can change adult language behavior,” says Dana Suskind
, who led the study. “Another thing is to show that [language] is sustainable, and that it impacts child outcomes.”
Like ACE, this kind of program is one of many ways of closing the achievement gap that persists in American academics. ACE tutors see firsthand the impact that one-on-one intervention can have on a child’s academic success, but they are only part of the puzzle of language. Parent support and other environmental factors are crucial to the development of the children we work with, and a child’s education does not stop when he or she leaves the classroom. Language learning is a lifelong journey that teachers and parents can lead by example.