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The Effects of Reading to Infants

The Effects of Reading to Infants

The Effects of Reading to Infants

Reading and the Link Between Language Development

The Effects of Reading to InfantsWe’ve all heard the saying, “start them young.” These days, the starting point for formal education is getting younger and younger. People are buying computer coding books for babies and sending three-year-olds to prestigious preschools for $43,600 a year. But don’t worry. One of the best head starts you can give your baby is a lot cheaper: reading to them.

That may sound like common sense, but there’s a lot of science behind the practice of reading to babies. And with science comes questions. Why is reading important? How young should you start? How much time should you spend per day? Do you really have to read Goodnight Moon for the thousandth time? The following information should help you answer all these questions for yourself, while encouraging you in your choice to do what’s best for your child.

Why is reading to infants important?

Studies have shown that there’s a clear link between reading and language development. The more babies hear language being used, the more their brains are stimulated. The more they are stimulated, the more likely they are to start speaking at a healthy age. Establishing this routine when they are young also makes it more likely they’ll enjoy reading when they’re older, because they associate it with valuable family bonding time.

Outside of academics, there are also several emotional benefits to reading to babies. Babies in the womb begin toThe Effects of Reading to Infants hear at 18 weeks. By seven or eight months’ gestation, they can recognize their mother’s voice from other voices, and they respond to it by calming down and lowering their heart rate. For newborns, hearing their mother’s voice is one of the only familiar constants they have in this new world outside the womb, and it can have a powerful calming effect on them. Reading to infants provides emotional benefits to the parents as well. Babies aren’t the only ones going through major life changes in the time after their birth, and reading has been shown to provide parents with a much-needed sense of control, intimacy and normalcy with a newborn.  

How should you do it?

There’s no exact recipe for healthy infant reading habits; the most important thing is that you do it, and do it while they’re still young. Click to Tweet

How young is up to you. If you want to start before they’re born, go ahead. If you want to wait until you can physically hold them in your arms, that’s good too. If you get tired of reading baby books, feel free to read from one of your books, magazines, or newspapers. They’ll develop language skills and bond with you regardless of the content. Both you and baby should enjoy this time, and you should do whatever you need to do to make it not feel like a chore.

You can subscribe to the YesPhonics blog or Youtube channel for more classroom advice. Happy reading!

Sources:

Lariviere, Janice and Janet Rennick. “Parent Picture-Book Reading to Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as an Intervention Supporting Parent-Infant Interaction and Later Book Reading.” Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 32(1). Jan. 2011. Web. 1 June 2018.

Marx, Viola and Emese Nagy. “Fetal Behavioural Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch.” Public Library of Science 10(6). 8 June 2015. Web. 1 June 2018.

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The Homeschooler’s Balancing Act: How to Manage Your Child’s Progress

The Homeschooler’s Balancing Act: Grade Level

If there’s one question a homeschooled kid can’t easily answer, it’s what grade they’re in. Sure, your six-year-old is reading at a third-grade level and can identify every species of dinosaur known to man, but a math lesson designed for one day takes them two or three days to complete.

The biggest advantage to homeschool education can also be the biggest challenge; the student is often free to go at his or her own pace. Click to Tweet

A little tipping in the scales of subject areas is normal. High schools offer – and fill – both remedial and advanced subject classes every year for a reason. Some unbalance can even be helpful, as it leads students to develop a “hook,” or an area of expertise that top colleges look for. While parents aim to raise well-rounded individuals with A’s across the board, colleges aim to have well-rounded classes, with a top concert pianist in one slot and a prize-winning robot designer in another. That means the kid who is unremarkable in one area and would rather spend all his time honing his talent in another has nothing to worry about.

So when does falling behind in one subject become worrisome?

Each student and curriculum is unique, and there is no set line dividing what is and isn’t acceptable. Special needs students are even harder to gauge. There are, however, a few research-backed guidelines to help you determine of your student’s academics are within a healthy range.

-Is the student more than one grade level behind in any subjects? In public school, being held back in a remedial class once is okay. Twice is a serious issue. If you homeschool in one of the 23 states with educational neglect statutes, your student being more than a year behind in a subject could spark legal investigations.

-Is the subject in question English, Math or Science? These are called core subjects for a reason, and struggles in them should be addressed early on to avoid problems in the future. If you intend for your child to eventually take a GED, SAT or ACT exam to get into college or get a job, being up to speed on these three subjects is important.

-Does the student’s academic struggles coincide with problems in your parental relationship with him or her? Do you find yourself fighting with or having to comfort your child after every hard test or lesson? A 2016 homeschool study found that a parent-child relationship in homeschooling can have an indirect effect on academic stress by affecting the child’s self-esteem. These issues, if left unresolved, could affect not only the student’s grades, but their mental health.

What can you as a parent do about it?

Don’t fret if your situation matches any of these scenarios. There are several resources and methods at your disposal homeschooler’s balancing actto help get your child back on track, including:

-Switching curriculums. What works for one student may not work for another. It could be they need a different style of learning (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) or they need a program that reinforces the same information through multiple subjects.

-Encouraging the subjects they excel in. Don’t slow down on the lessons they’re advanced in just to allow the slower subjects time to catch up. Having an area of expertise can do wonders for your child’s self-esteem and college portfolio.

-Hiring a tutor or counselor. If academics are affecting your relationship with your child, or the subject matter isn’t your strong suit, having a third party help out can lighten the load, while still giving you control over your child’s education. If money is an issue, look to see if another homeschooling parent would be willing to teach a subject, or if you can receive a mini-grant for homeschooling costs. If you simply need a counselor for emotional stress, many health insurance plans will cover that.

-Doing a little each day. Cramming to meet short-term deadlines is a recipe for disaster. They may pass a quiz enough to graduate to the next lesson, but a week later, they’ll likely forget everything they learned. If catching up means they have to do a little work over weekends or vacation, so be it.

As a parent and a homeschool teacher, you know the needs of your child best. Don’t worry. There’s support for you around every corner! Subscribe to the YesPhonics blog or Youtube channel for more classroom advice.

Sources:

Heaton, Elizabeth. “What Kind of Hook Do I Need to Get Accepted Into an Ivy League College?” Huffington Post. 10 August 2017. Web.

“How to Report Educational Neglect in Homeschool Settings in Each State.” Coalition for Responsible Home Education. August 2017. Web.

Mulyadi, Seto, et. al. “The Role of Parent-Child Relationship, Self-esteem, Academic Self-efficacy to Academic Stress.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. (Vol. 217.) 5 February 2016. pp. 603-608.

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Navigating the “Phonics Versus Whole Language” Debate

Navigating the “Phonics Versus Whole Language” Debate

Did you know the way you teach a child to read could incite people to label you as an ideological extremist? It may sound too ridiculous to be true, but there is a politically driven and very real “reading war” among educators that has lasted over half a century. The two sides: phonics-based and meaning-based approaches to learning language.

What’s the big deal?

Phonics methods break words into sounds, and correlate those sounds with a letter or a combination of letters. Once a student associates sounds with certain letters, they can “sound out” recognizable parts to form a word. With a phonics-based approach, spelling and pronunciation are often the first language skills to develop.

“Whole language” approaches have students focus on the meaning of words first. Students use sight words and context clues to find meaning in what they read, and focus on spelling and grammar later. With this approach, reading comprehension and critical thinking are often the first language skills to develop.

Instead of simply being two ways to teach children how to read, these camps have turned into hotbeds of political mudslinging. If children learn spelling before critical thinking, they’re portrayed as pawns being indoctrinated to never question authority. If they do the opposite, they’re portrayed as victims of whack-job learning experiments. Andrew Davis, a research fellow at Durham University, published a pamphlet in 2014 in which he argued requiring students who already have some reading ability to practice phonics “is almost a form of abuse.” On the other side, child psychologist and psychiatry professor Carl Kline and language disability consultant Carolyn Kline published an essay accusing whole language teachers of “destroying the innocent” by “killing the hopes, and the potential, and the mental health of the children who are victims of the reading disability epidemic.” And here parents are stuck in the middle, just wanting to teach their kid the ABC’s.

Don’t feel as if you have to pick a side in the reading war’s political stage. Click to Tweet

How do you know what’s best for your student?

Phonics-based literacy programs have been in use for centuries, and have scores of research to back them up. WholeNavigating the “Phonics Versus Whole Language” Debate language programs are newer, having gained popularity after Noam Chomsky proposed his language acquisition theory in the 1960’s, but may be a more “natural” learning process, similar to how a child learns to speak. Elements of both phonics and whole language methods can be combined to form a strategy tailored to fit a student’s unique learning style.

A 2016 study by the London School of Economics and Political Science found that phonics methods seem to give an advantage to students at ages five and seven. This advantage, however, disappeared by the time the students were 11. The researchers explained this by saying, “most children learned to read eventually, regardless of teaching method.” And that’s the main goal: teaching children to read. How you get there is up to you.

Subscribe to the YesPhonics blog and YouTube channel for more classroom advice—and try our Mnemonic Phonic Technique for free to teach the 72 sounds of English.

Sources:

Davis, Andrew. “To read or not to read: Decoding synthetic phonics.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2048-416X.2013.12000.x/pdf

Weale, Sally. “Phonics method helps close attainment gap, study finds.” The Guardian. 24 April 2016.

Kucirkova, Natalia, et. al. “The Routledge International Handbook of Early Literacy Education.” pp. 373-375. Taylor & Francis, 2017.

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