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Building Blocks for Reading with CARE with Babies

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Written by: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

Did you know that there is a connection between how much you talk to your baby and his or her later reading abilities and school success?

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Studies (e.g., Hart & Risley) have shown that by 18 months, children from low-income families hear significantly fewer words in their homes than children from higher income families. One recent study from Stanford University showed that by their 3rd year, low-income children have heard 30 million fewer words than higher income children (full article can be found here). If this language exposure gap continues, by the time these children get to kindergarten they will need remediation because they are already far behind in the language and school readiness skills needed for school success. Since early vocabulary is connected to later success in reading comprehension, this language gap presents a barrier to these children’s future academic learning achievement. It was also found that TV talk not only didn’t help, but it was a barrier.

Often these parents just don’t know that it is important to talk more to their babies. The good news is that randomized control group studies show that programs such as the Incredible Years® Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Parent Series result in improvements in children’s social and emotional language skills and school readiness.  It has been shown that low income parents can successfully learn to focus their attention and learn to talk more to their babies and children using descriptive commenting, persistence, and social and emotion coaching language during child-directed play and reading interactions.

See these studies:

Preventing Conduct Problems and Improving School Readiness: Evaluation of the Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Programs in High-Risk Schools

Preventing Conduct Problems, Promoting Social Competence: A Parent and Teacher Training Partnership in Head Start

Halting the Development of Conduct Problems in Head Start Children: The Effects of Parent Training

Here are some tips to building your baby’s language vocabulary through reading interactions. This is not about flash cards, use of Ipads or computers, or memorization of words. Rather it is about loving, child-directed conversations while reading books, playing with your child, or engaging in everyday routines. And yes, you must turn off your mobile phone 🙂

Building Blocks for Reading with CARE with Babies

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c_blockComment, point to and describe objects, colors, emotions, sounds and actions of pictures in touch-and-feel books. You don’t need to read the actual words in the book, just point to and talk about the pictures using your native language.  For example, “Teddy’s nose is yellow. Baby is hungry. The train is slowing down.” Allow your baby to touch the book and even to put it in his/her mouth.

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a_blockAct enthusiastic using physical dramatizations and sound effect.  For example, “that is a bird, he goes chirp chirp.” (Use your hands to make a chirp sign). Use a melodious voice varying the pace, phrasing, voice rhythm and pitch of your words.  Pause between sounds or vocalizations to allow your baby to respond.

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Respond with smiles, encouragement, eye contact, cuddling and delight to your baby’s smiles, body signals and pointing movements; follow what your baby is looking at and be child-directed in what you respond to.

 

e_blockExpand on your baby’s sounds.  If your baby says a syllable such as “la la” or “da da,” mirror or repeat the sound. Or, if your baby says “ball,” repeat the word and add a descriptor such as the color or shape of the ball.  “Yes, that’s a big, red ball!” If you have other children, read what they like while you are holding your baby. Let them read to your baby and imitate your baby’s sounds. Start reading at any page and make up your own stories or sing while you are looking at the book.

Remember:

• Be sure your baby’s head is supported and you are both sitting in a comfortable chair.  You might use a pillow or a sling to support your baby so that your hands are free.

• Read in a quiet place. Turn off any competing noises such as TV, stereo, or radio; this will also prevent overstimulation or stress.

•  There will be variability in individual baby’s interest in books, so don’t worry if your baby does not seem intently interested or starts crying.  Respond to your baby’s cues.  If (s)he seems fussy or uninterested in the book, try changing your tone or reading a different book.  If these new strategies do not engage him/her, then stop trying to read, and do another soothing activity with your baby. Try again later.

For more information, see the Incredible Years® Parents and Babies Program, and the book, Incredible Babies: Ways to Promote Your Baby’s Social, Emotional and Language Development by Carolyn Webster-Stratton.

Next week, we will bring you part 2 of this 3 part series: Reading with CARE for Toddlers.

References

Hart, Betty & Risley, Todd R.American parenting of language-learning children: Persisting differences in family-child interactions observed in natural home environments. Developmental Psychology, Vol 28(6), Nov 1992, 1096-1105. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.28.6.1096
Fernald, A., Marchman, V. A. and Weisleder, A. (2013), SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Developmental Science, 16: 234–248. doi: 10.1111/desc.12019
Reid, J. M., Webster-Stratton, C., Baydar, N. 2004. Halting the Development of Conduct Problems in Head Start Children: The Effects of Parent Training. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Vol.33(2) 279-291.
Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., University of WA, & Stoolmiller, M. 2008. Preventing Conduct Problems and Improving School Readiness: Evaluation of The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Programs in High-Risk Schools. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 49 (5), 471-488.
Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J. & Hammond, M. School of Nursing, University of Washington. Preventing Conduct Problems, Promoting Social Competence: A Parent and Teacher Training Partnership in Head Start. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. Copyright 2001 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Content of this blog ©The Incredible Years®
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Young Children’s Vocabulary Skills Predicted by Economic Factors (Follow up)

Hello friends!

Earlier this week we shared a guest post from Peter Loft, Certified Incredible Years Trainer. Mr. Loft discussed his response to an article in the NY Times which asserted the value of early childhood education in connection to reducing economic inequality, poverty, and crime.

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For those interested in this topic, we would like to share some further reading. Motoko Rich wrote an article just a few days prior to Kristoff’s article, titled “Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K.”

This article examines new research from Anne Fernald, who found that young children from affluent families had far more advanced vocabularies than those from economically disadvantaged families. This gap began in children as young as 18 months old.

These studies and recent articles highlight the importance of early education and verbal interaction with very young children. Next week, we will begin a series of three guest posts from Incredible Years developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton. This series will provide in depth discussion and tips for reading with young children at various developmental stages (babies, toddlers, and preschool).

Stay tuned!

~The Incredible Years Team

 

Reference

Fernald, A., Marchman, V. A. and Weisleder, A. (2013), SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Developmental Science, 16: 234–248. doi: 10.1111/desc.12019