I've been wanting to share some of my research for a while. I love this book, as an educator and a parent. The research in this book is fascinating - at least it is to me, but then I spend every day searching for ways to improve literacy instruction. As someone with a background in middle-level literacy, I found the information on how the brain develops its capacity for language from preK-grade 3 invaluable as an educator and parent. If you are interested in reading the book, though, just remember it was written with educators in mind - not parents. I hope this doesn't bore you; some you probably already know. I've pretty much quoted some of the chapter 3 highlights directly from the authors...
The Language Explosion: 1 to 2 Years
From 1 year on, children develop language skills rapidly. At about 18 months, vocabulary explodes with children adding a new word to their vocabulary at the astounding rate of one word every two hours [!] or so (Koralek & Collins, 1997). Their receptive vocabulary - the words they understand - grows even more rapidly (Eliot, 1999)....This period of rapidly expanding language development coincides with the time when synapse formation and metabolic activity are at their highest in the cortex (Eliot,1999).
Talk, Talk, Talk
...children of the most talkative mothers had 33 more words in their vocabulary at 16 months than did the children of mothers who were the least talkative. At 20 months, the difference was 131 words, and at 24 months, 295. (Huttenlocher, Haight, Bryk, Seltzer, & Lyons, 1991).
The Single Most Important Intervention
...reading aloud to children is the single most important intervention for developing their literacy skills. The research is clear - children who are read to from an early age are more successful at learning to read....First, it increases their vocabulary and helps them become familiar with language patterns. Repetition increases the strength of neural connections. Reading the same book to children repeatedly - which they love - serves to reinforce familiar words. Children often become so familiar with the vocabulary of a favorite story they can "read" it with an adult or pretend to read it to a sibling or to one of their dolls or stuffed animals.
A second benefit of reading to children is that the child acquires familiarity with the reading process. The pre-reading child has much to learn about print....The benefit of reading to a child is further enhanced when the reader involves the child by asking him or her to point to or name pictures of persons or objects, points out objects in the story that are present in the child's own environment, encourages the child to retell the story, or otherwise involves the child in some type of discussion.
The Nursery Rhyme Effect
When two sounds are similar, they excite the same cells and their connections. As these sounds are heard repeatedly, the neural connections become stronger and the sounds become more easily recognized or familiar. In this way, the brain also begins to distinguish between sounds that are alike and those that are different. This is a process essential to phonemic awareness [conscious understanding that words are made of individual sounds from speech and that these sounds are representative of the alphabet]....The repetition of sounds set to rhythm is a common memory strategy nearly everyone uses, and one of the best ways to develop word processing skills in the young is through nursery rhymes and simple songs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. In case you are interested...Wolfe, P. & Nevills, P. Building the Reading Brain, PreK-3. Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, California. 2004.