Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Language to Literacy #2

There are many interesting pieces of research in the book by Diane McGuinness, Growing a Reader from Birth, Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy. It is probably best to share these with you sequentially, beginning in the stage before the baby is born.

By the third trimester, all the brain connections to the ear are developed. Mothers voice comes to the fetus through her body and is louder than a voice heard from the outside. Because of this and because of the new developments in fetal monitoring, researchers have learned some very interesting things.

In one study, mothers-to-be were asked to read Dr. Seuss’s book, The Cat in the Hat, twice a day, aloud, to their unborn child in the last six weeks of pregnancy. After the baby was born, when the mother read the book to her newborn, the baby sucked more strongly on a pacifier. When she read a different book, one that the infant had not been familiar with during gestation, there was no change in the sucking reflex.

When you or I pay attention to something, our bodies become more still. When that happens, our heart rates slow down. This heart rate phenomenon is well documented. Researchers used this phenomenon to study whether a fetus pays attention to something familiar that mom is saying. The fetus’s heart rate was monitored while the mother-to-be recited a nursery rhyme. After a number of repetitions of the nursery rhyme, the heart rate slowed down. The fetus was paying attention to mom’s nursery rhyme! However, when she recited an unfamiliar rhyme, there was no change in heart rate.

The third study showed that the fetus can actually distinguish between two different syllables. The mother-to-be was asked to say “ba-by” over and over again while the heart rate was monitored. After a short time, the heart rate phenomena occurred and the fetus’s heart rate slowed down. The researchers knew they had baby’s attention. However, after a time, the heart rate went up—the fetus was bored! Then moms were asked to change the order of the syllables to “bee-bay” and immediately the heart rate went down. The fetus could tell the difference in a simple change of the order of the syllables. Amazing!

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Monday, June 21, 2010

Language to Literacy #1

I would like to share information from a book called Growing a Reader from Birth, Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy by Diane McGuinness. This wonderful book helps us understand how children learn to read and what is most critical in development.

The author tells us that becoming a good reading involves the same skills as becoming a good listener. The ability to decode the written word is a very small part of learning to read. However, with all the difficulties children of English-speaking countries have with learning to read, we have become diverted from what is really important.

In many countries, the alphabet writing system is straightforward. Each sound is represented by only one symbol. In these countries, beginning readers ‘crack the code’ of the system in a short period of time whereas in our English speaking countries, ‘cracking the code’ is much more difficult. Why is this? The English language has multiple spellings for the same sound and multiple ways to decode the same letter. Thus in English, we have many exceptions to the rules for decoding words.

Because of this, we have focused on decoding as the problem in learning to read, however there are poor readers in countries where the writing system is straightforward. Poor readers in these countries have no trouble decoding the written word.

In the next few weeks, I will focus on what is most critical in development in learning to read. It is not decoding. The major predictor of becoming a good reader is the development of good language skills during the early childhood years. We can learn to decode at any age, but we cannot learn language skills at any age. We learn language skills in the arms of our parents only at the very beginning of our lives through interactions with our parents. Those interactions, the quality and the quantity, will determine our future ability to learn to read.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Principles of Discipline #7

Thank-you for staying with me as we explored the Seven Principles of Discipline. Let’s review the previous 6 principles before ending with our last, and most important one.

1. Tell children what they can do instead of what they can’t do. Focus on do, not don’t. If our language is overloaded with negative words (no, don’t, stop it, quit it, cut it out, shut up), our children may decide we are not very interesting to listen to and tune us out.

2. Protect and preserve children’s feelings that they are lovable and capable. We refer to a person’s feelings of being lovable and capable as an IALAC (I Am Lovable And Capable). An IALAC is your self-esteem. No one can see it, but it is an important part of the person you are. People need big, strong IALACs if they are to love and to be loved, and if they are to feel good about their capacity to learn and to function well in the world.

3. Offer children choices only when you are willing to abide by their decisions.It is important to offer our children choices. Children feel empowered and important when they are allowed.

4. Change the environment instead of the child’s behavior. Occasionally, adult/child conflicts arise because some part of the environment is inappropriate for young children, or because adults expect more control or mature behavior than children can achieve.

5. Work with children instead of against them. When we refinish furniture we are told to rub with the grain. Perhaps we should also work ‘with the grain’ of the child, standing back and observing children and then figuring out with their help mutually acceptable ways for them to do what it is they are trying to do.

6. Give children safe limits they can understand. Recognize their feelings without accepting their actions. Maintain your authority calmly and consistently.

Speak and act only in the ways you want children to speak and act. Discipline comes from the word disciple, which means to follow. Children become socialized in our culture by following our example. The importance of parents as models for children cannot be overstated.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Principles of Discipline #6

We have covered five principles of good discipline.

Give children safe limits they can understand. Recognize their feelings without accepting their actions. Maintain your authority calmly and consistently.

Children see the world differently from adults. Rules and safety precautions that may be obvious to adults need to be stated and explained clearly and simply to children. Be sure children know your expectations for their behavior. It is inappropriate to scold for a violation of rules they did not understand. When adults become frightened when they see children are in danger, they often scold. Try saying (without hiding your emotion), “I was so frightened when I saw you had a knife that could hurt you.”

· Timothy (age 3) is happily pouring mild onto his dinner plate. “Timothy, milk stays in your cup or in a pitcher. When your cup is empty, you may pour some more. But you may not pour it over your dinner. (Remove milk if Timmy persists)

Parents often bypass little rules during mealtimes. The concern for getting enough food into a child over-rides the concern for good behavior. Children are quick to pick up the subtle change in the enforcement or lack of enforcement of rules just as they pick up the difference in enforcement in rules between moms and dads. In the long run, a few missed meals or desserts or treats will not contribute to malnourishment. However, inconsistency in following rules contributes to additional testing of the limits.

· Claudia (age 2) has pushed a chair close to the stove to see what is bubbling is in all those pots. “NO, you must never do that. You might get badly burned by the stove.” This is a very appropriate use of a loud “NO,” however, a better word may be ‘’STOP.”


It is best to limit the use of “no” or “stop” to safety issues. In this way young children learn to pay attention to those words and your tone of voice. Using “no” every single time you wish to guide a child to a more appropriate behavior will lead to children ignoring your words.

In 2085, a time capsule will be opened in Ladysmith that contains stories of the lives of today’s Rusk County residents. Wouldn’t it be a thrill for your great-great-great-great grandchildren to be given a sealed package with your words and pictures straight out of the time capsule? Visit the Visitor’s Center in Ladysmith for a page of details on how to submit information. You have wonderful stories to tell, but what you don’t have is time! The time capsule submissions are due June 18th! What do you hope and dream for the future?

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print