Lessons on Learning Fom Inside Children's Brains

The Seattle Times talks with I-LABS co-director Patricia Kuhl and other UW researchers who are studying brain development and literacy skills in children.
The front page of the Monday, Sept. 22 Seattle Times features a story on UW research on what happens in the brain as children learn to speak, listen, read and write.
The story is part of an education series leading up to the Seattle Time's free, public event, "The Case for Early Learning." I-LABS' co-directors Patricia Kuhl and Andrew Meltzoff will be among the speakers at the Oct. 15. Learn more and register online
In the Sept. 22 story, there's a section on learning language that discusses research by I-LABS' Patricia Kuhl. Read a part of it here:

Kuhl discovered to her surprise that it wasn’t some raw biological talent for discriminating sounds that predicted later speech and reading success.

Rather, what mattered was the babies’ ability to focus on sounds that were relevant to learning their native language while also ignoring irrelevant sounds.

Those two dimensions of attention — locking in on what’s important while ignoring distractions — predicted both how well they would speak at age 2½ as well as their phonological awareness at age 5.

Parents direct their babies’ attention to what’s important with lots of warm, loving, face-to-face talk using that kind of singsong voice that dips and rises and stretches out vowel sounds.

And parents strengthen those connections as their children grow by reading aloud to them, asking open-ended questions, and practicing serve-and-return conversations that build vocabulary and basic knowledge about the world around them.

Children who have even one adult spending time with them like that can form those connections, regardless of family wealth and education, Kuhl said.

“It’s not a fancy toy or a television set; it’s you and your time,” Kuhl said. “Your kid’s brain is not a turnkey system; it really does require you to talk and play and challenge cognitively.”