Isaac and I have been visiting family in Florida this week. Since I am separated from my treadmill for a few days I have been braving the Florida humidity to take my daily walks. And since I cannot read while I walk around my mother's neighborhood like I can when I am on my treadmill in our family room, I have been listening to podcasts. I thought I would share a couple I thought were interesting and sort of fit with my theme.
The first one is the more intellectual of the two. It is a Lexicon Valley podcast from Slate titled "How to Raise Verbal Children." The hosts, Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo, talk about the research that was published in the book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children by Betty Hart and Todd Risley. In a nutshell, the research which was gathered over a decade long study of children from varying socio-economic backgrounds shows that children who are exposed to more and better quality language interactions as infants and toddlers have an advantage over children who are not. And, as can be surmised, the children who have the advantage are from the better educated families in the higher socio-economic strata. Not surprising results if you are a teacher, or anyone with common sense. What was surprising about the research was that programs like Head Start were not effective in bridging the educational gap for poor children because by the time the children were four years old the differences in the language they had been exposed to was so distinct that the gulf was almost impossible to breach.
The research, and thus the conversation between the hosts, focused on verbal language and conversations that children engaged in before they were 4 years old. Books and reading were never mentioned, but I would put forth that language development and how parents talk to children goes hand in hand with reading to children. So just as it is important in a child's development to be talked to and engaged in positive conversation, it is also important to be read to and exposed to a variety of literature during those same years. When they are read to, children are listening to language, hearing new words, and working on comprehension skills just as they are when they are listening to a conversation.
Not all of the answers to finding ways to give every child an equal footing when they enter the doors to their kindergarten classrooms can be found in one research study. But this one is interesting. And talking to and reading with our children can never hurt.
The second podcast that I wanted to share is a Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast from How Stuff Works titled "The Boys of Summer: The Man Behind Wonder Woman." The hosts Cristen Conger and Molly Edmonds highlight William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman. Their conversation looks at his reasons for creating the character and his personal brand of feminism, as well as the different views of women the character has portrayed since her emergence in the 1940's. Wonder Woman does not have a large presence in our house outside Justice League cartoons. I don't know much about her other than the Lynda Carter TV show I watched as a child. But the history behind her creation and the evolution of her character is interesting. Isaac and I may be reading some Wonder Woman comics this summer.