Tag Archives: books

Straight Talk on Closing the “Word Gap” In Early Childhood

Straight Talk on Closing the “Word Gap” In Early Childhood

As politicians nationally emphasize the importance of PreK in preparing children for school success, there is a growing movement to focus on the first three years of life, and specifically on bridging what leaders call the “word gap.” This gap refers to the disparity in the number of words learned by children of different economic backgrounds by the time they enter kindergarten and across their lifetimes. It is a critical issue. Research shows that children who start kindergarten with fewer words are never able to catch up to their counterparts with larger vocabularies. Not surprisingly, parents and teachers can have a huge impact on children’s success by simply creating an evolving and engaging dialogue with the children during their first few years of life.

In March, The New York Times focused on the word gap when it published “Providence Talks” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/us/trying-to-close-a-knowledge-gap-word-by-word.html), an article on an initiative spearheaded by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. The program aims to grow children’s vocabularies from birth to four, particularly in families living in poverty. The process coaches parents so they actually use more words each day, measures word interactions by recording families at home, and ultimately gives children more word power for learning.

The Providence program’s aim is undeniably admirable. But as Claire Lerner, director of parenting resources at Zero To Three, the largest American advocacy organization for infants and toddlers, points out: the number of words children acquire will not by themselves create a “smart and successful” adult. She stresses, “We don’t want parents talking at babies…We want parents talking with babies.”
Lerner’s distinction between talking at and talking with babies reminds us that the dialogue itself, the interactive exchange between adult and child, is really what’s important. Children have a point of view from birth before there is any expressive language. Their gaze indicates engagement and wonder and opens up the door for back-and-forth communication. Parents can foster this communication in simple but important ways. For example, when your child notices a dog on the street, acknowledge this with words. “That’s a big dog. Do you see his black spots? Look at his feet. His nails are really long.” When we recognize a child’s fascination, we can model our own in return and become partners in observation, using language to present new words and ideas. The child’s interest lays the groundwork so next time they see a dog they’ll be able to retrieve those ideas. Some word interactions carry more weight than others.
mom readingerica
Providence Talks is just one of several initiatives underway across the United States aimed at growing vocabularies of very young children. To learn more you can visit:
Providence Talks at http://www.providencetalks.org/
Too Small to Fail at http://toosmall.org/mission
The Thirty Million Words Initiative at http://tmw.org/tmw-initiative/

Renee Bock is a dedicated early childhood educator, who is currently the Educational Director at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan that is dedicated to setting the standard for infant and toddler care and education. Renee has more than a decade of experience in the field and holds a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York. In her present position, she is helping Explore+Discover open the first of 27 New York City centers focused on children from 3 months to two years old. She can be reach at Renee@K3Learn.com.

Keep Your Kids Reading During The Summer!!

Our kids work so hard all year, let’s keep it up over the summer. As an educator, I have been making this statement for years, but now it is my turn to do the work with my son. Here are few questions to ask youself to get ready for the summer!

Is your library organized?
If your children can’t find books they like, they will not read! I organized my son’s books using baskets and put them into categories.  It takes a short amount of time and it is totally worth it!!!!


Do you know what your child’s reading level is?
The best way to find out your child’s reading level is to ask his or her teacher, or have a reading specialist perform an evaluation. Once the reading level is determined, make a basket of books that your child can read to you, or on his or her own! Tip: to find books at his or her level you can use Scholastic book wizard, or a great app called Level it!

Leveled Library

What time will you read with your child or will her or she read independently?
Set a specific time to read everyday!  I usually like to read with my children before bedtime. First, I have my son read me a leveled book and then I let him choose a book that I will read to him.


Do you know that reading is all around you?
Make sure you use your neighborhood and all around your house to read!!!  Your child can read you signs, labels, lists, game titles. This is a great way to learn sight words and use them in a real life setting!


Lauren Bernstein is the executive director of Lauren’s Little Learners in Livingston, NJ. She specializes in individualized instruction for students ages 3-10 in in reading and writing.



Choosing Books for Newborns, Infants and Toddlers

Books for Newborn through Toddler Stage
There is so much to keep in mind when choosing a book for a baby from the newborn stage, to infant stage, to toddler: What stage is Baby at in terms of his visual perception? What is he doing motor skills wise? How long is his attention span? As a children’s book editor and writer, I felt pretty well-prepared when it came to finding books for my own baby. But, despite my unique background, I still struggled with finding just the right books. Here are some of my top picks for Baby from newborn to toddler, based on my previous experience in the professional side of children’s book publishing coupled with my “real-world” experience:

Newborn to 6 months:
When my son was just a week old, he was very far from being ready for a chapter from Ulysses, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate being read to. I knew that newborns love hearing the sound of their mothers’ voices but still, it felt pretty awkward in practice. Over the weeks, I tried to pick books that had the high contrast patterns, bright, primary colors, or black and white images that I knew babies at this stage would prefer. Fun fact: Newborns also like looking at human faces. Here are some of my favorites for the very, very earliest readers:

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Mrs. Mustard’s Baby Faces by Jane Watternburg
  • Baby: Faces! (Baby Chunky Board Books) by DK
  • Black on White by Tana Hoban
  • Guess How Much I Love You? by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

Infant: 6 months to a year:
At this time, my son was reaching out to touch things that looked interesting to him, which is why touch-and-feel books were fun to read. He also enjoyed the element of surprise that lift-the-flap books deliver. Still, his attention span was pretty low, so I made sure to choose shorter books with simple text and a good rhythm or rhyme to it. I also liked reading him books that had cute, lovable characters; books that addressed topics that are familiar (such as bed time), or that were fun to read out loud and that sound silly.
Books for Newborns Through Toddlers

  • Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? A Lift-the-Flap Book by Karen Katz
  • Pat the Bunny Touch and Feel by Dorathy Kunhardt
  • Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin and Randy Travis

One Year Old
By his first birthday, my “little man” was starting to put pictures together with the words that describe them and vice versa, so I read him books that contained images of objects that he encountered every day. Here is where simple, brightly colored books with photographic images came in. He gravitated towards books about farm animals, pets, images of toys (ball, bike, doll), and cars. Sturdy books with tactile elements like sliders or pull tabs were also good for this age as his motor skills became more developed. I learned the hard way to avoid pop up books or thin lift-the-flap books as children at this age (like my boy) tend to wreck them at the first reading. Books that talk about emotions were good for this age as well. And, as my son got a little older, books where he got to come up with the answers himself.

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Slide and Find by Eric Carle
  • Baby Touch and Feel Puppy Love (Priddy Books)
  • Yawn by Sally Simes
  • Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
  • Peek a Who? by Nina Laden
  • My Big Animal Book (My Big Board Books) by Roger Priddy

After a Year…
As my son nears his second birthday, his book choices really run the gamut. He still reaches for some of his favorite baby books and really enjoys books with tactile elements (especially ones that he can rip out!). But I try to follow his lead. Since he loves talking about cars and trucks I have bought him books featuring cars and trucks. He also is really into our dog and dogs on the street, so I buy him books about dogs as well. It’s fun to take him to bookstores and to see what catches his eye. Here are our current favorites:

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Who Are We?: An Animal Guessing Game by Alexis Barad-Cutler (me!)
  • Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
  • I am a Dump Truck by Josephina Hill
  • Lift the Flap Things That Go (Baby Genius)

Good luck building your own library for Baby!
Alexis Barad-Cutler is the co-founder of Brunchwithmybaby.com: a site that features kid-friendly places to eat, play and explore in New York City. Alexis is a children’s book editor who has ghostwritten over 30 books for children of all ages. Who Are We?: An Animal Guessing Game (Scholastic), is her latest children’s book. She also writes about motherhood on her blog: iampregrs.tumblr.com.