Early Language Learning and Literacy: Neuroscience Implications for Education

Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, University of Washington.
Mind Brain and Education (Impact Factor: 1.35). 09/2011; 5(3):128-142. DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-228X.2011.01121.x
Source: PubMed


The last decade has produced an explosion in neuroscience research examining young children's early processing of language that has implications for education. Noninvasive, safe functional brain measurements have now been proven feasible for use with children starting at birth. In the arena of language, the neural signatures of learning can be documented at a remarkably early point in development, and these early measures predict performance in children's language and pre-reading abilities in the second, third, and fifth year of life, a finding with theoretical and educational import. There is evidence that children's early mastery of language requires learning in a social context, and this finding also has important implications for education. Evidence relating socio-economic status (SES) to brain function for language suggests that SES should be considered a proxy for the opportunity to learn and that the complexity of language input is a significant factor in developing brain areas related to language. The data indicate that the opportunity to learn from complex stimuli and events are vital early in life, and that success in school begins in infancy.

Download full-text


Available from: Patricia K Kuhl
    • "These differences may modify the pattern of results and limit the degree to which these studies can be compared. Moreover, Mattock and Burnham's sample were on average bilingual, who may have more open-ended phonological systems (see Kuhl, 2011), whereas Yeung et al. tested monolingual infants. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Research in first language development draws disproportionately from non-tone languages. Such research is often presumed to reveal developmental universals in spite of the fact that most languages are tone languages. Recent research in the acquisition of tone languages points to a distinct course of development as compared with non-tone languages. Our purpose is to provide an integrated review of research on lexical tone acquisition. First, the linguistic properties and origins of tone languages are described. Following this, research on the acquisition of tones in perception and production is reviewed and integrated. Possible reasons for the uniqueness of tone in language acquisition are discussed. Finally, theoretical advances promised by further research on tone acquisition and specific research directions are proposed.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Child Development
  • Source
    • "morpho-syntax) has also been shown to predict literacy abilities in young children. Recent studies of brain development have shown that complexity of language input is a significant factor in developing brain areas related to child language (Kuhl, 2011). Craig, Connor, and Washington (2003) found a significant relationship between African-American preschoolers' use of complex syntax and later reading comprehension. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study examined the associations among child language competence during father–child play interactions, fathers’ time spent volunteering in their preschool-age child's Head Start classroom over the course of one school year, amount of father play and reading to the child at home, and fathers’ positive control during play. The sample of 68 primarily African-American and Hispanic low-income fathers were videotaped interacting normally with their children during two equal length activities: a free play situation with farm toys and a more ‘academic-like’ situation with wordless picture books and puzzles. These videotaped language samples were obtained at the beginning and end of the school year. The findings showed a significant positive association between child language competence at the end of the school year and fathers’ reading to the child. Fathers’ positive control behaviour during play was negatively associated with child language.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Early Child Development and Care
    • "The EAL/D learner is both advantaged by the existing metalinguistic knowledge they bring to the task of learning English which native speakers don't, and disadvantaged by the headstart on English language learning the native speaker has. Native speakers begin to develop their intuition around what sounds right, grammatically and phonologically, from their earliest months of life (Kuhl, 2011). Therefore EAL/D students require more explicit instruction than may be considered necessary for native speaking English students, for example, understanding what is possible in English syntax, or building their vocabularies in English. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Teaching writing to English Additional Language (EAL) learners is focused, perhaps predictably, on developing English vocabulary, grammar and discourse skills. In this chapter I discuss whether these traditional monolingual and monomodal approaches to teaching English are adequate for EAL learners in New Times. Drawing upon the New London Group’s definition of multiliteracies as both multimodal and multicultural, I describe multimodal and multilingual pedagogies for teaching writing to EAL learners. Multimodal pedagogies reflect the human predilection to learn through multiple semiotic systems, whilst multilingual pedagogies acknowledge and utilize the substantial repertoire of linguistic skills that EAL learners bring to the task of learning to write in English.
    No preview · Chapter · Jan 2015
Show more