According to recent surveys, American preschoolers spend an average of four hours each day watching TV. It represents a dramatic shift from the childhood of our ancestors. What are the consequences? An electronic childhood might contribute to sleep problems and cheat kids of important developmental experiences. That’s why pediatricians urge us to replace screen time with real-world social experiences and lots of “unplugged” play. But how do we make it work? Here are some evidence-based tips.

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During a lunchtime conversation between three mothers, one mother mentioned that she needed to find an activity for her child for the only weekday afternoon when he was not already scheduled for sports, music, and afterschool activities. The Urban Child Institute staffer who happened to overhear this exchange could not help but notice the irony that within walking distance of the restaurant, children are growing up without opportunities for enriching activities because of the poverty of their families.

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Kids need to hear a language in order to learn it. Everybody knows that. But if it were just a case of listening to the spoken word, your baby might learn just as easily from eavesdropping or watching television. Babies pay attention to our emotional signals and tone of voice. Two-way communication matters. But what does a good baby conversation look like? Here are some evidence-based tips.

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Early childhood language and literacy development should be viewed as a critical issue not just by children’s families and teachers, but by business leaders, civic activists, nonprofit workers, child-care professionals—in other words, everyone who cares about the future of our children and our community.

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Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has set audacious goals for our community’s public education system, beginning with this year’s second graders. He wants 80 percent of them to graduate high school “college and career-ready,” 90 percent overall to graduate, and 100 percent of those ready for college and careers to pursue higher education.

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As the director of the Centre for Child Studies, Dr. O’Neill has the ongoing opportunity to observe the language abilities of children. Part of her research focuses on the ways in which children communicate, and how this communication develops. “What has really surprised me is just how incredibly rapid the growth of children’s language is,” says Dr. O’Neill. “They go from two-word speech at age 2 to complex sentences by age 3 that deal with a huge range of topics.”

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