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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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.

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The fundamentals of reading are learned before children reach school. Even immediately after birth, the areas of the brain that store language skills are already in place. So it’s clear that experiences during the first few years of life play an important role in how children learn language and reading skills.

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