Early Literacy is Vital to Every Child's Success

The Urban Child Institute is excited to announce Brain Awareness Night, our annual public symposium on issues affecting early childhood development.

Brain Awareness Night is hosted by the UCI in partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's Neuroscience Institute. As always, the event is free and open to the public.

Organized by the Neuroscience Institute's Paul Herron, Ph.D., and William Armstrong, Ph.D., Brain Awareness Night features nationally recognized experts who share research and knowledge about early brain development and its role in children's later achievement and success.

The event will be held March 12, 6 to 8 p.m., at The Urban Child Institute at 600 Jefferson. Learn more and RSVP Today!

This year, we welcome Dr. Helen Perkins from the University of Memphis and Dr. Daniela O'Neill from the University of Waterloo. They will speak on early literacy and language development in children's first years.

Perkins' research focus is in urban literacy, including building teacher expertise in reading instruction, classroom assessment, promoting specific literacy skills, encouraging family involvement,and adapting to students with special needs. Her presentation will provide research-based best practices to promote language development in children.

O'Neill's research investigates the development of language and cognition in early childhood with a particular focus on how children's early use of language is influenced by the development of other cognitive skills. Her presentation will highlight how parents and caregivers can powerfully impact children's literacy, social interactions and their readiness for today's new learning environments, by engaging in conversations from birth onward with children.

Early language and literacy is a topic of vital interest not just to parents and teachers, but also to business leaders, civic activists, nonprofit workers, child care professionals — in other words, everyone who cares about the future of our children and our community.

Early literacy development is vital to later academic success. Children with poor reading skills are more likely to repeat a grade, which too often sets the stage for a pattern of failure in school. Children not reading proficiently at grade 3 are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

The fundamentals for being a good reader are learned before children reach school. The first years of life are vitally important for language development. Because young children's brains are developing rapidly, this is the stage when they are most receptive to new information. Family reading routines and quality early education strengthen language development.

Research shows that the amount and quality of speech parents and caregivers use with children are among the strongest influences on language skills, especially before age 3.

That's why shared reading is an important component of the learning environment for children: It increases the variety of speech they hear, since it introduces them to words that they may not hear in everyday conversation.

Early literacy involves a complex set of skills, including vocabulary (new words), alphabet awareness (letters and their sounds), and conventions of print (punctuation and left-to-right orientation of text, for example).

Moreover, language development is a two-way process. Children need to hear a generous amount and variety of words, but the level of interaction is as important. The same principle applies to reading: Children benefit more when parents and caregivers use stories and pictures as opportunities to ask questions and explore ideas. The shared experience is as important as the words on the page.

Please join us for Brain Awareness Night as we explore this important aspect of child development and learn how to give our community's children a strong foundation of early language and literacy skills to prepare children to succeed in school and in life.

RSVP Today! Seating is limited.

Scott Wilson is director of communications and technology for The Urban Child Institute.