Category Archives: Linguistic

Bilingualism and the brain

Many parents know the benefits that learning more than one language can have for a child’s future. However, many parents are not aware of the additional benefits that learning a second language can have! The language-learning experience changes the brain, and with it, alters the course of development. There have been multiple studies that attempt to understand the effects of bilingualism, and the surprising conclusion is that learning a second language (or even third or fourth) has an effect on development beyond the linguistic realm.

The social brain

The idea of theory of mind is central to getting a glimpse into what we now know about how bilingualism can affect social processes. Theory of mind (ToM) is defined as one’s assumptions or ideas of how others think of something. ToM requires the mental representations of both your own self and others’ – and realizing that your mind and knowledge is separate from others’.

In an important study on the effects of bilingualism on social cognition, researchers Nguyen and Astington compared groups of children of 3 to 5 years of age on a series of measures, including a false-belief task to test theory of mind. In this task, also known as the Sally-Anne test, a child is shown a story in which Anne moves Sally’s toys when Sally is not looking. The child is then asked to point to where Sally will think the toys are. A child that demonstrates theory of mind will recognize that Sally will still think the toys are where she left them originally, because she doesn’t have all of the information that Anne, and the child, has. In the study, one group of children had been exposed to both English and French from birth or before the age of 8 months, while others had mostly been exposed to either French or English. The study found that bilinguals significantly outperformed monolinguals on the False-Belief tasks after controlling for age and language proficiency. Working memory was also significantly increased in bilinguals.

How ‘gaze shifting’ helps babies learn new languages

Could a baby’s social skills play a role in cracking the code of learning a second language?It’s clear that babies learn language best by interacting with people, rather than by listening to audio recordings or videos. However, it remained unclear which aspects of a social interaction were the most critical in order for babies to learn a new language  – until now.

Continue reading

Choosing the right books for your little one!

Taking a couple of minutes a day to read with your baby will dramatically increase his or her language skills. Not only that, but reading time is a great bonding activity that will strengthen the emotional ties between you and your little one. Plus, adding reading to your daily routine will increase the odds of your child enjoying reading and becoming a reader herself.

It’s important to find the right book, keeping in mind that it fits your child’s interests, maturity, and reading level. Here are some basic things to look out for.

Infants and toddlers (birth – age 2)

  • Look for books with big and colorful pictures of familiar objects.
  • They should be written in short, simple sentences and may include rhymes that are fun to read aloud and easy for your little one to eventually imitate.
  • Go for thick cardboard, plastic or cloth books. These are usually perfect for small children to handle and experiment with (and they’ll survive it because they can easily be wiped clean).
  • Think tactile – stimulate your child’s senses with books with different textures or scents.
  • Find stories about everyday life and events like bedtime, baths, or mealtime, especially if they’re illustrated with photos of children who are your child’s age or a bit older.
  • Stories that review basic concepts like colors, shapes, letters and numbers are always good to have around.
  • Finally, think about your child’s passions and look for books about them! What plot line will he or she enjoy the most?

Continue reading

The best way to read with your 1-year-old

In previous blog postswe have highlighted the importance of making a habit out of reading to your baby every day, bringing special one-on-one quality time that strengthens your bond. Depending on your baby’s age, you can focus on different aspects of the reading experience, but what’s the best way to share books with a 1-year-old? The American Academy of Pediatrics has created a literacy toolkit that includes great tips for parents and caregivers who wish to make the most out of reading time!This blog post will summarize a few key points about reading with a 1-year-old throughout three stages: 12 – 14 months, 15 – 17 months and 18 – 24 months. Within each age range, you’ll find examples of what your child can do and what you can do to maximize the reading experience! Continue reading

Reading with your baby: 0-11 months

Reading to your baby is very beneficial. Reading every day helps build a healthy parent-child relationship because it’s an opportunity for one-on-one interaction. Kids who are read to every day have stronger language skills when they reach kindergarten, and are therefore more prepared to learn to read. You can read more about the importance of reading to your baby on our previous blog post. It might seem strange to think that your one month old is actually learning something, or absorbing something out of the reading time. Depending on your baby’s age, you can focus on different aspects of the reading experience, to make sure that he or she gets the most out of it! Continue reading

Coping with tantrums and anger through books

It’s quite common for toddlers to throw tantrums – we can all agree with that! From kicking and screaming to breath holding, they are common from ages 1 to 3 and equally common with girls and boys. What we need to understand is that tantrums are a way for babies to express their feelings and frustration because they are not able to communicate with words yet! The most important thing is that you, the adult, set a good example and remain calm during those stressful moments.Along with tantrums, come other tough behaviors like biting, scratching or hitting. They are all a way for toddlers to get attention or express their strong emotions like anger, fear and frustration. Lacking the language skills needed to deal with them, they resort to those behaviors as a way of saying “Pay attention to me!” or “I don’t like that!” Here are a few things you can do when faced with these situations: Continue reading

Raising a reader!

An increasing number of studies show that promoting reading can have a great impact on children and their future. There are so many benefits to reading for pleasure. Literacy skills, vocabulary, and general knowledge increase, as do self-confidence as a reader and community participation.There are many things parents can do to promote reading and raising a happy reader! It’s pretty simple, really. It all starts with you, the parents! Because research shows that reading books to your little one is the most important thing you can do to prepare your child for reading and learning.

But why limit yourself to simply reading words off a page? Why not take it one – or a few, steps further? Here are a few simple tips and tricks that will certainly help you on your way to raising a reader! Continue reading

Impact of gestures in language development

People all over the world, from different backgrounds and cultures use hand gestures when they speak. Hand movements are so natural and prevalent among cultures that researchers from different fields like linguistics and neuroscience have studied gestures to look for insights about language development. It might seem funny to think that gestures are important for language development, but just imagine this scene for a second: trying to explain to your kids how to tie their shoelaces or how tall a building is in comparison to another without using hand gestures. It would be pretty difficult, wouldn’t it? It’s such a simple action but so hard to explain without moving your hands.Hand gestures are part of the way we communicate, especially with children; in the way they develop their language skills. Children use their hands to communicate with others very early on. They point to the things they want. They know what they want to say but they can’t say it with words yet. Continue reading

Teach self-control through books!

Reading to your child for a few minutes everyday is extremely beneficial for his or her brain development, language skills and social skills! Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged pediatricians to constantly remind their patients about this!Books can become useful tools that help your child identify and make sense of feelings, and they help parents teach children how to deal with difficult emotions and situations. Many times books simply offer an easy and productive way to teach children about things like friendship, diversity, and self-control – a fundamental ability.

It is well known that self-control is very important for a child to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Self-control is the ability to stop and think before acting – maintaining composure in challenging situations. Therefore, to have self-control you must be aware of your own thoughts and emotions. For parents, teaching self-control becomes a priority, and it is an ability that requires practice to be learned. However, you should keep in mind that babies’ and toddlers’ prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with self-regulation and control) is not fully developed; therefore, it is not reasonable to expect a kid to have self-control like an adult does. If your child is very young, he or she will have trouble effectively controlling emotions, thoughts, and actions – and that’s completely normal! The limits you establish should be according to his or her developmental stage.

Books can be a great way to talk to your little one about self-control! Your child will learn through the different characters and situations in the stories, and talking about it afterwards can help him or her compare and relate them to real life. Have you been introduced to Leslie Patricelli’s books? They are a must – very fun, light, and great for learning about self-control! Look out for these: Continue reading

The go-to tool to teach emotional intelligence

Books can be effective tools to help your child identify different emotions and learn how to cope with complex feelings.

The first years of your child’s life are normally an incredibly happy time for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that your baby does not experience other feelings. Current research suggests that a baby is born with around nine different emotions: interest, enjoyment, surprise, distress, anger, fear, shame, disgust, and dissmell. Over time, those feelings combine with each other and with experiences to form more complex ones. At times, babies and toddlers have trouble expressing their more difficult feelings, they have to cope with anger and fears as they grow. Those feelings can stem from challenging experiences like moving to a new home, losing a loved one or having a new brother or sister join the family. These changes often cause confusion.

As a parent, it’s tough to not be able to understand how your baby is feeling – after all, he or she is not able to put into words what he or she is going through. That causes frustration, imagine not being able to explain or even understand what you are feeling! Books can be useful tools to help your child identify and make sense of those feelings, and they help parents teach children how to deal with difficult feelings and situations. There are a lot of great books out there that were designed to help babies and toddlers begin to distinguish between different emotions. Reading them, and then talking about them together will certainly help!
I would like to recommend two books that I have found very useful – and am personally very fond of:

foto I am happy

 

I Am Happy: A Touch-and-Feel Book of Feelings by Steve Light is a great book for both babies and toddlers. It invites the reader to “touch” and “feel” different emotions by offering a variety of textures to touch. For example, the last page says ‘Every day I feel loved’ and has a picture of a baby tucked in bed under a soft blanket. The softness of the blanket represents the emotion of love. Your little one will love this special hands-on experience every time!

foto when i am : cuando estoy

 

When I Am/ Cuando Estoy by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza is another great addition to your toddler’s collection. The text is in both English and Spanish, so you can read both or choose one. The pages capture what a child could do when he or she experiences different emotions like happy, sad, angry, worried, scared, and surprised. Your child will easily relate to the common situations that are presented on the pages.

 

 

Do you have book recommendations of your own? Please share them by writing a comment below! Keep coming back for more information about the perks of reading to your child and suitable book suggestions!