So, more data + more correlations with daily life and other senses = better learning?
This I find strange. Reading demands concentration, sure, but we're talking about being read to as the comparison for conversation. So instead of having a story read to you, and the ensuing imagination of any aspect of anything you can imagine - the smell of a dragon's lair, the feeling of riding on a giant frog, the taste of snozcumbers, ... - you're stuck with concentrating on someone talking and being limited to the domain of real world interactions.
Imagination is no more artificial than conversation - both seem able to engage all the senses but immersion in a fantastical tale seems more likely to do so to me than talking to some one (unless the conversation is specifically tailored to multi-sensory awareness, which is certainly a facet of some conversation I have in my parenting).
Mimicry comes first, so an infant can learn that when they see Dora they should say "Dora". When they put something down or finish eating, everyone seems to say "all done" and clap, so they start saying "all done" and clapping. There's a whole range of sophisticated seeming behaviours that can be trained easily by simple mimicry.
So, wrt. to reading. Things that infants can learn easily are picking up / putting down / fetching books. The nice feel of sitting with a parent and a book (which will hopefully lead to favourable thoughts towards reading, later). Also, mimicking sounds that parents make on specific pages. E.g. "BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, Mister Brown makes thunder" might trigger "BOOO BOOO BOOO".
Think about it this way -- imagine reading with an infant. You could substitute / make up all of the words but go through the motions and they would imitate your words instead of what's in the book. I.e. mimic conversation in context. They really have no idea of the content of the book, or even that it's significant, compared to all the actions / conversation around the activity of reading a book.
This is especially important when you consider the fact that most people treat their language to be operating on some intricate notion of _reference_, when in fact it is based upon correlations of states of experience that may be very noisy. This kind of misunderstanding often leads people into a position where they do not know why things are true or why their words have meaning.
You and I are on the same page, but you're using the word 'experience' in a more narrow sense than I am. You can experience words and things that are (roughly) objects and my point still stands. Things that are objects are still better thought of generally as experiences. It's just more consistent.
Another way of putting this is that language learning is mostly about encoding the appropriateness of linguistic constructs in varying contexts. So it is appropriate to act like you are in a restaurant when you are in what looks to be a restaurant. It is appropriate to run with the pack. It is appropriate to run from a lion and chase down a gazelle. This is basically the whole point of a nervous system, if you want to go wild with it. We just evolved a specialized adaptation for using our 'appropriateness-engines' on words and symbols rather than general feelings of what is going on around us.
At least, that's a rough draft of what I'm getting at.
Warning PDF download: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&ei=daOsVOyDLYOkyAS724DQDQ&url=http://nlp.lsi.upc.edu/papers/poveda06.pdf&ved=0CB4QFjAA&usg=AFQjCNFcEw-sjwSO3yy9gBSIaEV-p1hxLw&sig2=7QbewnQq4QtnxsRHwE28xQ
Like these two lines of text.
- We've known that there is basically no value in reading to your kids since Scarborough & Dobrich published their report in 1994.
All very important to know, but at this point this is kind of a useless article because it's highlighting only one random result out of hundreds of studies that have looked at these issues.
Is it really as settled as you present it? From my brief survey it appears that reading to/with preschool-aged kids has some measurable effect on reading development, and that it has a more substantial effect on oral language skills. Is that inaccurate?
It seems incredible to me that narrating events would be of great value but reading, examining, and asking questions about a picture book (these are the things you do when reading a picture book to kids, you don't just read the text aloud) would be of very little or no value.
One of the most interesting findings from Scarborough & Dobrich, which looks like it was replicated by the study you linked to, is that the number of books in a child's home is a much greater predictor of later literacy ability than the amount parents actually read to their kids. A couple things to note though:
- Intrinsic motivation plays a big role in this. E.g. if a kid enjoys have books read to them, it will probably be beneficial. But if a kid would rather be doing something else, then reading to them may be actively harmful, in that it may actually make them read less on their own later even though otherwise they would have eventually come to enjoy reading.
- The way you read to your kid matters. E.g. asking questions about the book as you're reading is more beneficial than just reading, and even the way you phrase the questions makes a difference. That Hart & Risley book I linked to above has some data about how the cognitive benefits of asking questions depends on their grammatical structure.
Also, for what it's worth this may be related to the audio/video gap. I.e. talking to kids has a huge benefit for them, but playing recordings or videos of people talking has essentially no benefit.
Haha, YES! My decision to reverse the process of reducing the size of my giant library of dead-tree books after my first kid was born is JUSTIFIED BY SCIENCE! :-)
> That Hart & Risley book I linked to above has some data about how the cognitive benefits of asking questions depends on their grammatical structure.
I will definitely check that out, thanks.
[EDIT] Incidentally, the number-of-books-matter thing fits well with my hunch that modeling behavior is extremely important to encourage similar behavior in children, assuming the adults in those households tend to read more than the average. It strikes me as crazy to expect kids to, say, enthusiastically take violin lessons, read, and play sports when their parents never play music, never read (except to their kids, perhaps), and rarely exercise at all let alone actually play an organized sport.
Really? I thought it had some, but possibly only if access to real conversation was limited. Any good reading on this?
The study found that amount of variety in exposed words from real people mattered much more than just the amount of words a child was exposed to, when it relates to their development.
I also question how much you can really test a baby for cognitive development that is robust against time to say anything about adulthood. The Ages and Stages questionnaire used is about assessing delayed development versus adulthood, and the sensitivity is as low as 51% for the 4-month ASQ and 75% overall, and the specificity is 86% . These numbers themselves aren't super great which only will compound with the cohort study in question.
It's probably better to do both, especially as when the child ages reading to them helps them gain practice reading themselves. I fear that many people will look at a headline like this and feel like they can avoid reading to their kids by turning on the radio.
He copies things he hears, normally one or two of the words from sentences people say around him. You can also give him new words and he repeats them almost exactly.
I spend lots of the limited time I get with him pointing at things and telling him what they are. He loves these word games too. We also look at lots of picture books, but he seems to take in more when we just "talk".
I really love this period of the children growing up. They haven't quite reached that 'terrible twos' stage yet.
His reasoning was that the babies would start to speak the original language of humans.
All the babies died.
Whatever you do, read, talk, sing or even rant but communicate with your baby.
Anyways, there's a lot of research that does consider nature vs nurture... http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/201...
The Slate article you linked doesn't deal with nature vs. nurture at all. It simply assumes that nature doesn't matter, approvingly citing the views of one researcher who makes the astonishing claim that "Children aren’t born smart. They’re made smart by their parents talking to them." This view is definitively disproven both by studies of adoptive children and by studies of twins reared apart (not to mention common sense—cognitive ability must be at least partly heritable, else there would be no way for ever smarter animals to have evolved). For more details, I recommend The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker.
Very important to know, but not news.
This really isn't news.