Here’s some very recent research results showing the long term benefits of early learning, reported by The Guardian newspaper (UK):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/oct/14/childhood-stimulation-key-brain-development

Some quotes:

Farah’s results showed that the development of the cortex in late teens was closely correlated with a child’s cognitive stimulation at the age of four. All other factors including parental nurturance at all ages and cognitive stimulation at age eight – had no effect. Farah said her results were evidence for the existence of a sensitive period, early in a person’s life, that determined the optimal development of the cortex. “It really does support the idea that those early years are especially influential.”

Andrea Danese, a clinical lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, said … that this kind of research highlighted the “tremendous role” that parents and carers had to play in enabling children to develop their cognitive, social, and emotional skills by providing safe, predictable, stimulating, and responsive personal interactions with children.

It’s a bit of a pity that the study only started on the children when they were 4.  Do we need to wait for another 20 years for science to do another longitudinal study to prove what we already witness ourselves all the time – that early learning for babies and toddlers will also have a long term beneficial impact?


Feel free to discuss this blog post in the comments here or in this Forum post:
http://forum.brillkids.com/general-discussion-b5/latest-research-showing-long-term-benefits-of-early-learning/

KL Wong is the Founder and CEO of BrillKids, and also father of Felicity, aged 6. He can be contacted at KL(at)brillkids(dot)com.

 

Technology is changing how we teach babies and toddlers to read.

Cultural shifts in society usually happen over decades. Then along comes new technology and everything changes overnight. That’s exactly what seems to be happening in the world of baby/toddler reading. Lap reading alone is “out,” and software-driven reading lessons are “in.”

Good parenting skills include instilling babies and toddlers with a life-long sense of curiosity and exploration. What about a life-long sense of curiosity and exploration of words and reading? Wouldn’t it be nice if more kids loved reading from the beginning? Many new parents who are pressed for time and who embrace technology themselves are welcoming babies and toddlers into a new world for experiencing words and language in addition to the tried and true comfortable world of lap reading.

I bumped head-on into the world of baby/toddler reading technology myself mostly after the publication of my book for parents and caregivers, Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write—From Baby to Age 7 . (The book made me a “go to” person for baby/toddler reading products such as Your Baby Can Read, Little Reader, WatchKnow and others.) Now, only two years after the book’s publication, I get tons of questions from parents and caregivers about baby/toddler readers and new technology. Here are five most frequently asked questions with answers.

1) Can babies really read and is it natural?

Most parents and even some educators don’t understand that the young child’s brain is hard-wired for early reading, but advances in brain imaging are changing that misconception. Scientist Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, and her colleagues have shown images of white matter in the 9-month-old brain connecting areas used for talking, grammar, reading, and social interaction with areas for listening and understanding. Dr. Kuhl reports that

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We’re positively thrilled to announce that Dr. J. Richard Gentry will become a contributor to the BrillKids Blog!

A former University professor and elementary school teacher, Dr. Gentry brings to BrillKids over thirty years of experience in the field of early education. He is also the author of many books including Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read—From Baby to Age 7.

Dr. Gentry joined the BrillKids Foundation team earlier this year to help with our “early education for every child” mission. Now, he will also be contributing his thoughts on early childhood education on the BrillKids Blog.

By way of introduction, we took the opportunity to conduct a written interview with Dr. Gentry for the benefit of BrillKids members:

How did you first come across the concept of baby and toddler reading, and what were your first thoughts about it?

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I’ve studied beginning reading for over thirty years and have written books about how very young children learn to read in school. Although I knew many children learned to read as babies and toddlers before entering school, there is little research on 2- and 3-year-old readers and I had not worked with them, so like most reading professors and researchers, baby/toddler reading was an academic blind spot. After being invited to write a book for parents about raising readers, my first thoughts were “Get to work!” I had waited too long to investigate this important topic. It took me three years to write the book!

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It’s been quite a while since my last blog post.  In fact, over the past few months, I haven’t even been able to be very active on the Forums either.

What have we been up to?  Quite a lot!

US Infomercial

The main thing that has been occupying my time, since the beginning of this year, actually, is the production of a 30-minute infomercial on Little Reader, for the US market.  I’m happy to announce that it’s just been launched, and we just finished our first week of test airings!  As we continue to make adjustments to the show and re-test it, those of you in the US and Canada might see the show on and off over the next few months.

For those of you interested to see the show, here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmKyiTGvSp4

(This is an edited version with repeated segments removed.)

I also talked about the testimonials that

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As promised in an earlier blog post (Why I Avoid Classical Piano Teaching For My Daughter), here is an update on Little Musician.

Over the recent weeks, we’ve been working feverishly hard to get this out. One reason Little Musician has taken so long is that we kept wanting to add more features to it to enhance the experience.

Although I was a classically trained pianist many years ago, I’ve been learning a lot of new things about music education over the years, and the more I learned, the more I felt compelled to add new features to Little Musician. We’ve now got to a stage where I’m very happy with the features we have in it, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Here are some of the key features:

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I’d like to give some updates to two of the earlier blog posts that I made.

1. “COMMON CRITICISMS”

One of my first blog posts looked at the criticisms frequently leveled at the idea of teaching babies to read:

“Common Criticisms Of Teaching Babies To Read”

I’ve since added a new frequently-heard criticism that I had overlooked when I first made that blog post:

“Won’t My Child Eventually Learn To Read In School Anyway?”

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Firstly, some good news for all of you who’ve been waiting for Little Musician: We’re very close to beta launch now!

In my next blog post, I will give a more detailed update on where we are, and what Little Musician will include.

For this blog post, however, I would like to ‘set the scene’ a little by explaining my musical background, my approach to giving my daughter musical training, as well as some of the thinking that went on behind the creation of Little Musician.

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Here’s a topic I just posted on the BrillKids Forum:

Many of you probably have read about the recent controversy stirred up by the Today Show over YBCR and teaching babies to read in October last year, and again recently when the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) joined in the attack.

If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend reading Dr. Richard Gentry’s blog post on this: “Is There a “Baby Can Read” Witch Hunt?”.  Particularly fascinating were the comments the blog attracted, including a post by CCFC who were obviously not very pleased with what Dr. Gentry wrote.

One of the later comments then brought up a point about how CCFC twisted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s recommendations regarding babies and screen time as supposed ‘evidence’ against YBCR.

Sadly, I don’t think CCFC are the first or only ones to represent/misrepresent the AAP’s recommendation to be something that’s absolute (ie., NO screen time for children under two, PERIOD).

So what did the AAP actually say?  Here’s the recommendation regarding babies and TV:

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Ever since I published videos of our daughter, Felicity, reading at twelve months of age on YouTube and switched career paths to the field of early childhood education, I have often heard negative comments by people concerning the idea of teaching babies to read.

At first, I was shocked by such a negative reaction, especially the intensity of some of it. Over time, I became accustomed to it, and saw that I was not the only one to experience this (see these discussion topics for example: Forum thread 1, Forum thread 2).

We explored the pros and cons of early reading and early learning in general in the BrillBaby.com articles here:

However, after watching the recent Today Show’s highly-critical piece on the “Your Baby Can Read” program, I decided to write out my direct responses to the common criticisms leveled at the topic of early reading.

Here are some of the most frequently-heard comments I hear from critics, and my responses to them:

  • Those babies are not reading!
  • What’s the rush?
  • Why are you forcing that poor baby?
  • Just let babies be babies!
  • Teaching them to read would take time from other areas of development.
  • Babies should be allowed to play.
  • Teaching reading skills so early creates unhealthy pressure on the child.
  • Babies should be taught to read through play.
  • The best way to teach babies to read is by reading to them.
  • Teaching babies to read in that manner is too formal, too unnatural.
  • There is no scientific proof of any long-term benefit to early reading instruction.
  • Won’t My Child Eventually Learn To Read In School Anyway?
  • These children will be bored at school.
  • These children will not fit in with their classmates.
  • Teaching children to read should be left to teachers.
  • It’s developmentally inappropriate. The child’s brain is not ready for reading.
  • I wasn’t taught to read as a baby and I turned out okay!

Those babies are not reading!

Well, that depends on your definition of ‘reading.’ If you use the most common definition (e.g., Oxford Dictionary), then ‘reading’ simply means

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Welcome to the BrillKids Blog!

We’ve been meaning to have a corporate blog for a while, but never got round to it – that is, until now!

Contributing to this blog will be members of the BrillKids team, including myself (Founder and CEO) and Lappy (Vice President), and it will cover areas such as:

  • Early learning tips
  • Thoughts on parenting
  • Product updates
  • Topical matters

Do make sure you subscribe to be notified of new blog posts! No BrillKids membership necessary.

Sincerely,

KL

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KL Wong is the Founder and CEO of BrillKids, and also father of Felicity, aged 5.  He can be contacted at KL(at)brillkids(dot)com.