Excellence in Education: Talk, read, sing to your baby | SierraSun.com

Excellence in Education: Talk, read, sing to your baby

Ruth Jackson Hall
Special to the Sun

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — The mantra, "Talk, Read Sing…" has grown into a nationwide movement and messaging campaign. On the national scene, TV celebrities such as Dr. Oz can be heard regularly promoting this message to millions of Americans on his daily TV show.

A quick Google search reveals that the movement is embraced by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Sesame Street Workshop, the U.S Department of Education and the Clinton Foundation's Initiative "Too Small to Fail."

There is urgency to these messages based on years of irrefutable research; early, intentional verbal interaction of parents and caregivers with infants and toddlers is key to promoting critical brain development.

When children are born, there is a limited window of time when their brains grow and develop at a phenomenal rate. At no other time in their life is it possible to have such a profound impact on a child's potential for literacy and language development.

Instilling an early love of language, books and reading lead to academic success.

Consider these facts:

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By the age of three years old, a child's brain is 82 percent of its adult size and by five years old it reaches 90 percent.

By the time your baby is 3 years old, he should know or recognize approximately 1,000 words. He acquires this vocabulary through conversations, singing songs and being read to from the moment he is born. Thirty minutes a day of reading is a great target for you and your baby and can be reached by breaking reading times into 10-minute intervals throughout the day. Just looking at and talking about the pictures is a great way to start; babies and toddlers like books with rhyme and rhythm, too.

Trillions of brain cell connections (neural synapses) form in your baby's brain in the first few years of life. Regular interaction strengthens the pathways used most often — so make sure your interaction is language-rich.

Babies process sounds in the womb: The part of the baby's brain that processes sound begins working in the third trimester and within 30 hours of birth, babies recognize sounds they have heard in the womb.

Babies start processing language like adults at 2 days old.

Touching a baby while talking to him helps him understand words.

Music helps babies communicate and supports language acquisition. Before a baby learns to understand language, talking sounds a lot like music.

Babies develop a sense of humor at around 18 months old. Injecting humor into activities helps babies learn. Babies learn better when they are surprised. Have fun and play with your baby.

Babies learn best through social interaction compared to audio or video stimulation. Put away the technology. Your baby is hungry to interact with YOU!

Here are five ways to encourage strong language skills in your children:

1. Talk to your child: The more you talk, the larger your child's vocabulary becomes. Use everyday moments: the car, the grocery store and bath time. Talk about the world around you. Be sure to leave pauses so your baby can have a turn, too.

2. Be a good listener: As your child begins to babble and say his first words, be sure to listen, make eye contact and respond. This will encourage him to continue.

3. Read together every day: Ask questions as you read and talk about the pictures. Help your child make connections, such as how the cat in the story looks like your neighbor's cat. A love of reading can make all the difference in your child's academic life and career.

4. Play with your child: Acting out storybooks, drawing pictures, listening to music, and singing songs are all great ways to stimulate language and literacy development

5. Stay positive: If your child says a word incorrectly, simply repeat the word with the correct pronunciation. Offer encouragement and respond positively to your child's efforts, rather than focusing on mistakes.

Hundreds of resources are available online to help you nurture your child's development.

Check out the websites of First Five California, First Five Placer and First 5 Nevada County. Locally, there is a multitude of parent-child interactive programs to nurture your little one's development. Many are offered through public and private nonprofits.

For more information, call 530-582-2583 or email me at rhall@ttusd.org and save the date for the "Talk, Read, Sing Child Development Conference" on Saturday, May 7, 2016!

Ruth Jackson Hall is Early Learning Coordinator for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.