Category Archives: Milestones & Learning

Why Reading to Your Child Matters

reading to children

Why Reading to Your Child Matters

Written by: Kayla Polk

Shared book reading is an important educational activity in the home. Not only is it important, but it is enjoyable and fun!

What do you need to know about reading books with your child?

1.Quality and quantity of book reading interactions are important
Evidence shows that the quality and quantity of shared book reading interactions are important. Frequent parent-child book reading is associated with improvement in children’s language skills, early literacy skills and reading achievement in school. It has been recommended that parent-child home reading should begin at birth. Try reading with your child for 15-20 minutes per day, every day. The quality of the book reading interaction is also important because warm and supportive behaviors from parents are related to positive child behaviors, including focused attention, emotional outcomes, positive mood and enthusiasm for reading. Warm and supportive parent behaviors include emotional support, shared enjoyment, animated facial and vocal expressions and child encouragement.

2.Interactive book reading builds children’s language skills 
Good book reading is when the child is actively involved during reading. Because shared book reading can improve a child’s vocabulary, it is important for parents to interact and read withtheir child rather than only reading totheir child. Before you begin reading a story, introduce the author and illustrator and ask your child what the author and illustrator do. You can also talk about the parts of the book (front cover, spine, back cover). To be more interactive during reading, you can encourage your child to talk about the pictures in the story, respond to your child’s comments and questions, ask questions about the story, ask your child to predict what is going to happen next, connect the story to your child’s personal life and talk about the meaning of words. 

3.Shared book reading increases imagination
Reading aloud with your child can help them to become more curious, and can help them to experience places they have never been and things they have never seen. Imagination leads to invention and creation. Try introducing your child to new topics through books. For example, maybe your child has not yet learned about the lives of horseshoe crabs. The book Moonlight Crab Countshows children how they can be scientists while learning about a mother and daughter who observe horseshoe crabs on the beach. 

Examples of how to encourage shared book reading (adapted from Parental Influence on Child Interest in Shared Picture Book Reading by Camilo Ortiz, Rebecca M. Stowe, and David H. Arnold, 2001):

• Let your child pick the book and follow your child’s interests when selecting books.
• Use examples during reading that are related to your child’s interests.
• Ask questions throughout the story and encourage your child to ask you questions.
• Use sound effects and different voices for the characters.
• Take your child to the public library.
• Praise your child for their participation, questions, answers and listening.
• Pick books that are appropriate for your child’s age.
• If your child does not seem interested in reading with you, try again another time.
• Read in a comfortable, quiet, relaxing environment. 
• Make sure the reading time is not rushed.
• Sit close to your child while you are reading.

For book recommendations specific to your child’s age range, click the following link! https://www.cbcbooks.org/readers/reading-lists/

Reach Out and Read serves children and families through pediatric partners by providing literacy information and books to families. Use the following link to see if there is a program near you! http://www.reachoutandread.org/resource-center/find-a-program/

Visit Imagine’s fun and interactive story times. Story Times are offered in English and Spanish. Click the link for upcoming titles and times. https://www.imaginecm.org/programs-camps-events/storytimes/

Growth Mindset and the Power of “Yet”

Growth Mindset and the Power of “Yet”

Written by: Caitlin Courshon

Using decades of research, Stanford researcher and professor Carol Dweck explains that people have a tendency to view intelligence from one of two competing perspectives: “fixed mindset” versus “growth mindset.”

A person with a fixed mindset tends to view talents and abilities as unchangeable. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I can’t read that word!”
“I’m not a math person.”
“I’ll never get this right!”

By contrast, an individual with a growth mindset tends to believe that they can improve their abilities over time with practice. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I love a challenge!”
“Puzzles are really difficult for me, but I’m going to keep practicing.”
“That book was tricky for me to read, and I worked really hard to make it to the end.”

Watch this brief video that explains some key differences between fixed and growth mindsets.

Research shows that students who have a growth mindset tend to value learning, remain positive when dealing with setbacks and believe that the harder they work toward a goal, the better they will become. For more information, watch Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on “The Power of Believing that you can Improve,” in which she explains the importance of growth mindset through her years of fascinating research.

How do we teach children to adopt a growth mindset?

1.Teach your child about the brain
Ask your child, “Did you know that your brain is a like a muscle?” Then watch this brief video and explain the concept of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to constantly change and grow. 

Teaching your child about how the brain works and reminding them that they can change their brain through practice is a great start to encouraging a growth mindset. You can use videos, books, coloring sheets and physical models of the brain to make this information engaging and interactive!

2.Praise your child’s process, not their intelligence 
Instead of praising your child for their talents, try to provide specific praise about their process, such as the effort they showed, the strategies they used, their focus on work or how they improved or learned from a mistake.
Instead of: “You are such a talented artist.”
Try: “I really like the details of your painting. I can tell you worked really hard on it.”

Instead of: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You are so smart!”
Try: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You studied a lot for that test, and I’m proud of you for working so hard.”

Instead of: “Nice job getting that math question correct!”
Try: “You tried a lot of different strategies to solve that tricky math question. That was great to see!”

3.Use the word “yet”
The word “yet” can be very powerful when it comes to teaching children about how to re-frame their fixed mindset. For younger children, check out this Sesame Street “Power of Yet” music video

Child says: “I can’t read that word.”
You say: “You can’t read that word just yet! Let’s sound it out together.”

Child says: “I don’t know how to do addition.”
You say: “You don’t know how to do addition yet! Would you like to practice together?”

Child says: “I’ll never get this right!”
You say: “Not yet, but with lots of practice, this will get easier.”

4.Be the growth mindset role model
What better way to teach your kids how to adopt a growth mindset than to model one yourself? Show your child what it looks like to work hard when you encounter a challenge, the importance of practice and how to learn from your mistakes.

In the words of Carol Dweck, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”

Interactions Matter!

Interactions Matter!

Written by: Hannah de Vries

Everyday interactions between caregivers and children build the foundation for children’s social-emotional and cognitive development. Research shows that when caregivers are responsive, warm and sensitive to children’s needs, children develop confidence, resilience and communication skills. These skills help to prepare children for interactions with others and to work through problems, manage stress and form healthy relationships. Caregivers who engage children in different opportunities and experiences help them to develop a love of learning. For example, caregivers might encourage shared book reading, constructive play, independent exploration and participation in decision making. Children also benefit academically when caregivers engage them in conversation, use new vocabulary words, provide a literacy rich environment and embed problem solving in everyday family activities

What do high-quality interactions look like? Here are some simple and effective strategies to promote meaningful interactions:

Engage in responsive, warm and sensitive interactions.
• Attend carefully and listen actively when your child speaks to you by using eye contact, head nods, caring facial expressions and encouraging gestures that demonstrate empathy, engagement and validation. Allow enough time for your child to share, and avoid interrupting. 
• Provide toys and activities that are appropriate for your child’s development and understanding. Check the labels on toys to see if they are age appropriate.
• Be available when your child needs support, and recognize that all children have different needs. Perhaps your child needs your help with a transition routine, or to get ready for bed time. Perhaps your child needs you to arrive a bit early for school pick-up so they do not wait nervously. As you consistently identify and meet your child’s needs, they learn to trust and respect you. 

Follow your child’s lead.
Engaging in intentional number play with your child can help them to learn numeracy skills and get excited about learning more! Research shows that number play is more effective for a child’s skill-building when an adult guides the play. 
• Let your child take the lead in conversations and play by supporting their ideas. Avoid the temptation to direct all interactions, but instead show acceptance. For instance, if your child is pretending that stuffed animals are alive or wooden blocks are food, that is okay.
• Notice your child’s interests and play preferences. Suggest doing what your child enjoys and have fun together!

Engage in turn-taking.
• Establish predictable, back and forth verbal and social interactions with your child to enhance their language and cognitive abilities.
• Be patient and provide time for your child to take a turn. For instance, if you are working on a puzzle together, give your child enough time to explore how to place a puzzle piece in a space before helping. Talk your child through the interaction by modeling and prompting with statements like, “First it’s my turn to place a puzzle piece. Now it’s your turn.”

Challenge and support your child’s learning.
• Try elaborating on your child’s communicative attempts by repeating, rephrasing and expanding on your child’s words and non-verbal cues. 
• Use phrases that build on what your child is thinking about and contribute to what they want to investigate. Support your children’s language development by introducing and defining new vocabulary. 
• Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” When you ask children to provide detailed responses, you support their developing thinking and comprehension skills. 
• Model, encourage and build trust with your child to develop their independence. Practice different skills with them. For example, model how to tie a shoe, brush teeth or fold a shirt and then say, “Now you try by yourself.”
• Encourage and comment on your child’s interests. For instance, if your child is pretending a cardboard box is a car, ask “Where are you driving?” or “Should we draw wheels on your car?”

Be a good role model.
• Be aware of your own emotions because children look to you for ways to express and regulate their emotions. For example, if you model self-talk for calming yourself when you are angry, you will model for your child how they can use the same technique. If you control your voice volume when you are excited, you will show your child how to experience intense emotion and use self control at the same time. 
• Children attend to everything you say and do and may imitate words and actions – try to be your best self. However, it is okay to make mistakes. Consider it an opportunity for modeling. If you make a choice you regret, take responsibility and help your child understand what you wish you had done instead.

These strategies can be used anytime and anywhere. You can create high quality interactions during transitions, travel time, daily routines, meals, bath time and play time. Everyday interactions matter!