mother-with-toddlerA new study by Anne Fernald, psychologist at Stanford University, showed that by age 2, children from professional homes had learned 30 percent more words than the children from poor and immigrant homes. In fact, by age 3, the gap widens and there’s a 30 million-word deficit for disadvantaged children.

The reason? “Those who had heard more words,” Fernald explains, “were able to understand words more quickly and had larger vocabularies by age 2.”

Poor parents are less likely to talk, read, and play with their young children. “I’ve had young moms say, ‘I didn’t know I was supposed to talk to my baby until they could say words and talk to me,’ ” said Susan Landry, director of the Children’s Learning Institute at the University of Texas in Houston.

But researchers know that brain development is enhanced by language interaction with parents and caregivers from birth. Waiting for a free, government-funded preschool program is too late. Efforts are being taken to close the knowledge gap long before school starts.

One such effort is Providence Talks. In his New York Times article, Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word, Motoko Rich describes this intervention. Aimed at the city’s poorest parents, every family uses a digital word counter to capture language use in the home. Home educators then create language plans for each family and teach the parents how to talk to and with their children, building conversational turns and vocabulary.

The goal is to coach low-income parents to close the language gap before school starts. Along with National campaigns such as Too Small to Fail and the Thirty Million Words Initiative, more local home intervention programs need to begin for parent education.

“In the same way that we say you should feed your child, brush their teeth, you should be stimulating their brain by talking, singing and reading to them,” said Ann O’Leary, the director of Too Small to Fail. “We want to move the needle from this being an optional activity to a must-do activity.”

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petr-horacek-coverA quiet rabbit and a loud lion, a still sloth and a bouncy kangaroo – this charming, interactive board book for young children is all about pop-up fun. A Parents Best Book of the year, Horacek’s lift-the-flap design introduces little ones to the concept of opposites.

Children are captivated by the board book’s design. There is so much to see and do. The author introduces 20 animals and the differences between them on bright and eye-catching pages. Both the letters in the words and the real-life paintings help a child guess the animal and its opposite. The flap has the answer and little ones can’t wait to see the animal “unfold” off the page!

Looking for good board books can be overwhelming. There is so much to choose from. Keep in mind that lift-the-flap board books, like Animal Opposites, are appealing for toddlers whose bodies want to move.

Gather a board book collection. Keep one or two in your car to entertain your little one. The pop-up animals and interactive flaps of this one make early learning fun.

A good board book is timeless.

Playful Early Learning:

  • Look at the cover and ask your child what she sees.
  • Name the animals on the front and back covers.
  • Turn the pages together. On the left side of each spread, look for clues in both the letters and the picture to guess the hidden animal.
  • Predict each animal’s opposite before you lift the flap.
  • And the next time you read aloud Animal Opposites, be sure to roar with the lion, bounce with the kangaroo, bellow with the gorilla, and trumpet with the elephant.

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Miles4MilkAd_8x5_FINAL“Mothers’ milk is liquid gold to babies who are fighting for their lives. It can mean the difference between life and death” —Jeffery Hanson, Medical Director, Presbyterian/St.Luke’s Medical Center NICU

The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Florida is a non-profit organization founded in 2011 to collect and process human milk and distribute it to premature and critically ill babies when their mothers’ milk is not available. Human milk fights infection while providing ideal nutrition.

Mothers’ Milk Bank is raising funds to open Florida’s first donor human milk bank for tiny babies in need. Join them for the 2nd Annual Miles for Milk Run/Walk at beautiful Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake, Mother’s Day Weekend.

You can register at MilkBankofFlorida.org

Please feel free to contact The Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida with any questions at info@milkbankofflorida.org

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