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Speaking of Brains…

March 15-21 is Brain Awareness Week. The idea is to “foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science.” Brains are AMAZING! Working 24/7 to keep us breathing, walking, talking, learning and living. Science has learned so much about how our brains work.

As a speech therapist and an author that writes for children, I am fascinated by how a child learns language. For example, did you know that babies throughout the world babble the same sounds. Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl calls them “citizens of the world”. At that point they could learn any language. Over time they weed out the sounds they don’t hear when their care takers speak.  Dr. Kuhl has done some fascinating research which you can hear about in this TED talk.

Her research suggests that babies learn language best from a speaker that is present with them. Not from audio only. Not from a person they are watching on a screen. Listening to language helps an infant learn the sounds of their native language. And the words, sentence construction, prosody and intonation. So, it follows that the more language a child hears the better they will be at using it. And what better way to provide an environment filled with language than to read, read, read to your children.

Books provide rich vocabulary, varied sentence structure and opportunities to engage in conversations about the books. Some find it difficult to talk to a baby since they don’t talk back, so books help immerse your child in language so they can begin to babble, then jargon and finally talk back to you!

Now, as promised, a recipe! Oatmeal is brain food and who doesn’t love a Butterscotch Bar! These are a favorite at our house!

Author: Holly Niner

Holly Niner is the author of No More Noisy Nights illustrated by Guy Wolek, and The Day I Ran Away illustrated by Isabella Ongaro. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines, and her previous picture books were award winners. Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD, received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome, was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

4 thoughts on “Speaking of Brains…”

  1. once again, your recipes leave me drooling! I wonder if I can convince Maurice to make them for me, I mean us.

    The brain is extraordinarily pliable at a young age, isn’t it? how can we keep that as we get older? I’d love to learn a new language.


    1. You deserve them after a hard day teaching! I bet you use a few calories! We really need to learn new languages very young for the best results. The brain starts pruning stuff and it’s a lot harder. When I work with those who speak English as a second language because they want to modify their accent, first they have to train to hear the sounds that are in English but not their language and then learn to make them! Thanks for reading!


  2. Brains are amazing. In my Early Childhood days we were able to demonstrate when the brain was ready or most receptive to each new skill – languages, music, motor development, etc. If I had my career to do over again I think I’d spend it studying brain research.


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