Hearing Patterns

When children drum along to the rhythms in a song or to their own name, they practice careful listening and pattern recognition. This is one way children hear sounds in words – a skill necessary for word recognition, speaking, reading, and writing (adapted from “Show and Tell”).
LEARN AT HOME! Have your child focus on listening to you as you say, shake, or drum a rhythmic pattern. Then, model active listening by letting your child attempt to copy you. The result may or may not be the same pattern you modeled; remember that there are no “wrong” answers, as we are focusing on process, not performance! If your child responded with a different pattern, echo the new pattern back to her. If your child responded with the same pattern you modeled, try modeling a new pattern the next time.

Neuroscientist: Think twice about cutting music in schools | ScienceBlog.com

“Playing an instrument may help youngsters better process speech in noisy classrooms and more accurately interpret the nuances of language that are conveyed by subtle changes in the human voice,” says Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern University.

“Cash-strapped school districts are making a mistake when they cut music from the K-12 curriculum,” says Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory in Northwestern’s School of Communication.

Kraus will present her own research and the research of other neuroscientists suggesting music education can be an effective strategy in helping typically developing children as well as children with developmental dyslexia or autism more accurately encode speech.

“People’s hearing systems are fine-tuned by the experiences they’ve had with sound throughout their lives,” says Kraus. “Music training is not only beneficial for processing music stimuli. We’ve found that years of music training may also improve how sounds are processed for language and emotion.”

Read the full article:

Neuroscientist: Think twice about cutting music in schools | ScienceBlog.com.

Parents’ gestures linked to better children’s vocabulary

Check out this article from Robert Mitchum recentlly in the the Chicago Tribune. I hope it makes you want to work a bit more on using sign language with your child. 20 signs is all it takes. You can do this!!
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Child development experts have known for decades that children’s vocabulary at the time they enter school is a strong predictor of their future educational success. But a new study from University of Chicago psychologists suggests that early parental influence over vocabulary may be, literally, in their hands.

Parents who demonstrated a broad range of gestures to their children at 14 months of age produced children who gestured more broadly themselves, according to study to be published Friday in the journal Science. In turn, children who exhibited a larger “gesture vocabulary” at 14 months demonstrated a wider vocal vocabulary at 54 months, authors Meredith Rowe and Susan Goldin-Meadow reported.

That relationship may explain at least part of the observation that children from higher socioeconomic families exhibit stronger vocabulary skills when they enter school compared to children of low socioeconomic backgrounds. Parents with higher family income and more education gestured more to their children, the researchers found.

“Basically all of the socioeconomic difference in child gesture can be explained by parent gesture,” Rowe said. “It doesn’t mean that children born into a high socioeconomic status family just gesture a lot, it actually depends what a parent does.”

The study measured the number of “gesture types”–such as pointing, waving or nodding–that parents and children exhibited to each other in a 90-minute videotaped session. The 50 families studied were drawn from the greater Chicago area, reflecting a wide range of economic, cultural and educational backgrounds, Rowe said.

Though the research does not yet prove that teaching parents to gesture more will directly increase a child’s vocabulary later in life, the researchers said that the relationship does suggest something parents can try with their children. Gesturing is harmless, and potentially beneficial.

“I think it is extremely encouraging,” said Goldin-Meadow, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. “Gesture is detectable early, and here’s something parents can do pretty early.”

Area speech therapists said the new finding was welcome evidence for gesture-based activities already in use for children with delayed speech or enrolled in “baby sign language” classes.

“We definitely use gestures and signs,” said Denise Boggs, a speech pathologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital. “For any child that is not talking, it gives them a framework, gives them an idea of what communication is for, and down the road they fill that in with verbalizations.”

News: House passes NEA funding in Economic Recovery Package

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Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the Economic Recovery Package by a vote of 244 to 188 which successfully included $50 million in supplemental grants funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)! 

This provision was threatened throughout the House process by opponents of the NEA who questioned its effectiveness in providing economic stimulus. Today, the NEA offered the following statement, “the arts and culture industry is a sector of the economy just like any other with workers who pay taxes, mortgages, rent and contribute in other ways to the economy; and that the National Endowment for the Arts is uniquely positioned to assist in job stimulation for that industry.”

Thanks to the thousands of advocates who contacted their Members of Congress and let them know the importance of maintaining funding for the NEA!
However, our work is not finished yet as the U.S. Senate starts their debate on the bill tomorrow and continues through next week.  The Senate Appropriations Committee did not include an arts jobs funding provision in their version of the bill, but advocates still have an opportunity to change the final outcome.

Please take two minutes to take action and ask your Member of Congress and Senators to support the arts in this legislation.  Americans for the Arts has supplied you with fresh research and key quotes that support this funding — your help in communicating this information to your Member of Congress is critical. 
Please help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund.  Play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today — it’s free and simple.

Babies Have a Sense of Rhythm


It will be months before they talk, walk or even sit up. But at just a day old, babies have a strong sense of rhythm, say researchers.

Newborns are also sensitive to pitch and melody, they found.

Experts said that introducing a child to music at an early age could enhance these innate musical abilities and also help them learn to talk.

The fledgling musical talent was discovered by Hungarian researchers during a study of more than 100 boys and girls who were only one or two days old.

They played the babies music as they slept and measured their brain activity.

The researchers found that their brains computed changes in beat, tone and melody.

For instance, if a key beat was missed from a rhythmic pattern, the baby’s brain registered the change.

A change in pitch, similar to that between male and female voices, also provoked a reaction.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences study was part of a threeyear European project on how the brain processes music and other sounds, co-ordinated by Dr Susan Denham, of Plymouth University.

She said: ‘What is perhaps most significant is that not only do babies’ brains register changes in beat, pitch and simple melodic patterns but they do so more or less automatically, as they are fast asleep during these experiments.

‘People come into the world with brains that are wired-up to detect patterns’.

Dr Denham added: ‘A lot of music reflects the rhythms and contents of speech. If you are listening to music you will also probably be more sensitive to speech rhythm.’

From the article “Babies Have a Sense of Rhythm, Which Could be Used to Help Them Develop,” in the British Daily Mail.