Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Talking to Kids

I remember a while back a big hubbub about the Baby Einstein videos actually making kids dumber instead of smarter. Of course, it wasn't quite that simple. That was resulting, yes, because parents were parking their kids in front of the TV with the videos playing and then ignoring them. The creators of the series said doing that missed the point, that the videos only worked when parents engaged their kids about what they were seeing and used them as a prompt for interaction and conversation. The videos were good, but they were nothing without parental talk.

One of the things we like to say in libraryland is that even simple picture books generally have a broader vocabulary than everyday conversation, so reading to kids is an essential activity for exposing them to a variety of words and building a large mental dictionary. However, just as with the Baby Einstein situation, reading in isolation without interactive interpersonal language use is still limiting. According to new research:

Researchers at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, have found that mothers use more complex language and have greater interaction with children when reading a wordless book than when reading a book with text. The findings have implications for increasing language and literacy among children with developmental disabilities, they say.

"We found that when creating a story or just responding to pictures, the parent used many words and complex sentence structures while engaging with their child. That level of engagement wasn't as present when reading books with text," said Sandra Gillam, a professor of education at Utah State with expertise in early language and literacy acquisition. "These results fall in line with the generally accepted belief that less structured activities, such as playing with toys or creating things with Play-Doh, elicit more productive language interactions between parent and child. These findings in no way diminish the importance of reading printed books, but incorporating interactions with wordless books is a way to build a more solid literacy foundation in children with developmental disabilities."

Even in books with words, parents and kids can use the pictures to supplement the text, predict what might happen next, or create their own stories. Talking and reading (or watching) are neither one as effective in isolation, but work best in tandem. So while reading may be one of the best individual activities for kids (or adults), it's even better when it becomes a shared social activity.

Another recent article I enjoyed on a somewhat similar theme deals with the subject of discipline. Ultimately, I think it all goes back to the idea of not talking down to kids as though they're incapable of understanding or not worthy of full respect. Talk to kids the way you would adults or any other person and they'll learn and respond in kind. That's what I've always tried to do as an educator, librarian, and uncle, anyway, and can attest to its general effectiveness in those roles.

Some of the best parenting advice I've ever gotten was from a website for prison guards. . . .

The article, "7 things never to say to anyone, and why", listed common statements used by prison guards and police officers and explained why they make people do the exact opposite of what they're being told to do. The seven things were:

1. "Hey you! Come here!"

2. "Calm down!"

3. "I'm not going to tell you again!"

4. "Be more reasonable!"

5. "Because those are the rules!"

6. "What's your problem?"

7. "What do you want me to do about it?"

If you've ever been a child or have your own, you undoubtedly recognize those as the greatest hits of the pissed-off parent. . . .


At 6/26/2011 8:58 AM, Blogger CDL said...

My favorite, for the younger set, is the parent almost shouting from across a couple rows of shelves to preschoolers talking and playing in the play area, "Shhhhh!"

At 6/26/2011 9:06 AM, Blogger CDL said...

OK and this.
"These results fall in line with the generally accepted belief that less structured activities, such as playing with toys or creating things with Play-Doh, elicit more productive language interactions between parent and child."
I attended a webinar on early literacy and one of the new things they focused on was the importance of play and ways we can get that message to parents. It is about the interaction and there were examples of so called productive language, of course. It was done by the originator of the ECRR concept and they've moved beyond, past, just listing skills needed.


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