Marysville Library Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baby Brains and Literacy

A while back I attended a library conference, and my favorite session was all about the latest research into how babies acquire language and literacy. Here are some cool takeaways that I learned:

1) Baby’s brains are great statisticians. Between the ages of 6-9 months, they listen to everything they hear around them, and are able to calculate what sounds are important to pay attention to in the language they are hearing. For example, is the difference between “r” and “l” important? Yes in English, no in Japanese.

2) Babies who grow up in language rich environments enter Kindergarten with four times the vocabulary of babies who grow up in language poor environments. Children who have a higher vocabulary will have an easier time learning how to read. And those children who grew up in language-poor environments *never* catch up in their reading ability.

3) Babies learn through interacting with people. Mom, dad, Aunt, Uncle, Grandparents, and every other person a baby spends time with, is a learning experience for baby. Television does not interact with babies, and even when babies look like they are fascinated with a television, they have found that babies do NOT learn anything from it.

4) Babies who live in a bilingual house learn language just as fast as babies who live in a monolingual house. They measured vocabulary in kids from both situations at a certain age, and kids had the same vocabulary numbers. The key was that the young children in the bilingual homes had the same number of words in their vocabularies spread over the two languages.

What can parents take away from this research?

1) Talk to your babies. Even if they can’t talk back, they are still learning. YOU are your child’s best toy.

2) Pay attention to your baby, and whatever they do, you add to it. If they say “ba”, say “baba”. If they say “baba”, say “bada”. If they say “truck”, you say “red truck”.

3) Use the television sparingly, if at all. Be aware that even if you really need to park your kids in front of the TV in that crazy moment while you finish dinner while the kids are cranky and tired, that is a moment that they’re not learning. (Can you tell I did that, too?)

4) Read to your babies, even if they can’t talk yet. (You’re not surprised I would put in a plug like this, are you?). Read to them in whatever language you find most comfortable. Notice when they interact with the book or the story, talk to them about it, then read to them again and again.

You’re not only having fun with your beloved child, you’re helping to build their brains!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Everything you see on the Internet is true, right?

Your child is writing an essay for school, and finds a site on the Internet that is very interesting and useful for his or her paper. But is it true? Is the information trustworthy? There’s a site about Martin Luther King Jr written by a white supremacist group. There’s another website site claiming that the moon landings never took place written by a guy in his garage. Should you believe the information you read on either of those sites? Here are some tips for figuring it out:

1) The first thing to look for is who wrote the site. Everybody has a point of view, and you should know what it is. Reliable sites will have the author’s or organization’s name in an obvious place. You should also be able to find a link to “About us” that tells about the organization and their goals. The two sites I reference above don’t have this information.

2) Look up at the address bar. Does it have a “.com” or “.org”? Anybody at all can create a website with those top level domain names. If you have any questions, you can always search Google using whois Samplesite to find out who the site is really registered to. Does it have a “.gov” or “.edu”? Those sites are hosted by either the government or an accredited educational institution. In fact, when you use Google, you can limit your results to only those sites by typing in samplesearch or samplesearch.

3) Did you find a great article on Wikipedia? Wikipedia is what is known as a “stepping stone” site. That means that your child shouldn’t use the information in the article directly for their paper, but it is a great source to find information they can use via the links to outside resources listed at the bottom.

4) Finally, Sno-Isle has a great collection of databases with good, reliable information. Go to, hover over the “Databases and Research” in the blue bar, and choose one of the broad topics. We have databases that cover everything from country information to biographies, from science to all sides of controversial topics.

Using these tools and tips, you can be confident that the information you find is much more likely to be true. And if you have further questions, about any of this, don’t hesitate to ask any of us at the Information Desk at your library!