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Research Base:

Representative cross-disciplinary sample

Selected bibliography

The design of Hopa Mountain’s Story Makers program emerges from a growing consensus of multidisciplinary research: a healthy learning environment at home, especially in the first several years of life, strongly predicts children’s success in school and in life.

Achievement gaps open long before children enter kindergarten or first grade. “Catching up” is difficult, at best, and very costly to families, to communities, and to society at large.

Aligning with current research, StoryMakers offers parents and primary caregivers the information and the tools to create fun and engaging home learning environments for their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. We focus particularly on children’s early language and math development, which have emerged as the strongest predictors of children’s reading readiness and success in school.

Representative cross-disciplinary sample of research underlying StoryMakers (excerpts and summaries) (back to top)

From recent education, sociology, and cognitive psychology research:

“The Family: America’s Smallest School.”
Policy Evaluation and Research Center, Educational Testing Service, September 2007.

“The family and the home are both critical education institutions where children begin learning long before they start school. . . . [I]mproving a child’s home environment to make it more conducive to learning is critical if we are to improve the educational achievement of the nation’s students and close the achievement gaps.”

Education policy and daily practice needs to emerge from our understanding that “the family is a child’s first and smallest school – parents are the first teachers.”

“A disproportionate number of American homes are under-resourced and ill-equipped as first schools.”

“Many parents need help in understanding the connection between what they do at home and how well their children are prepared to succeed in school.”

Read the full report or highlights from the report at http://www.ets.org/


“Reducing Poverty through Preschool Interventions.”
Duncan, Greg et al. Future of Children, Fall 2007.

“Children’s early learning environments differ profoundly across lines of both race and
class. . . . Compared with children from low-income homes, children from advantaged homes have three times as many books, are read to more often, watch far less television, and are more likely to visit libraries . . . .”

“Differences in children’s [home] learning environments contribute to large . . . differences in language and cognitive skills at school entry, age three, and perhaps even as early as age one.”

“Preschool gaps in cognitive and socioemotional skills tend to persist through the school years and into later life.”

Read the full report or a summary of this report at http://www.futureofchildren.org


"Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children" and "The Social World of Children Learning to Talk."
Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. 1995, 1999.

“Our data showed that the magnitude of children’s accomplishments depends . . . on the amount of experience children accumulate with parenting that provides language diversity, affirmative feedback, symbolic emphasis, gentle guidance, and responsiveness. By the time children are 3 years old, even intensive intervention cannot make up for the differences in the amount of such experience children have received from their parents.”

“The most impressive aspects of the longitudinal data are how different individual families and children are and how much and how important is children’s cumulative experience before age 3.”

“ . . . the amount of parenting per hour and the quality of the verbal content associated with that parenting, were strongly related to the subsequent IQ score of the child.”

The more “talk” parents engage in with their babies and toddlers, the more emotionally positive that talk becomes, the stronger their children’s language/literacy skills, and the greater their children’s chances for success in school.

See the graph on page 7 of http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Read more from a recent (2007) update of Hart and Risley’s research at http://www.infoture.org/


“School Readiness and Later Achievement.”
Duncan, Greg J. et al. Developmental Psychology, Vol 43, No. 6, 2007.

Across six major longitudinal studies, the strongest predictors of later school achievement are school-entry math, language/literacy, and attention skills, in that order. This finding holds for both boys and girls and for children from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Read the full PDF article at http://www.apa.org


From recent neuroscience research:

“Early Language Acquisition: Cracking the Speech Code.”
Kuhl, Patricia. Nature Reviews-Neuroscience, Vol 5, 2004.

“Infants can discriminate among virtually all the phonetic units [basic sounds that, put together, make words] used in languages. . . . The acoustic differences on which this depends are tiny. A change of 10 ms [milliseconds] in the time domain changes /b/ to /p/, and equivalently small differences in the frequency domain change /p/ to /k/. Infants can discriminate these subtle differences from birth, and this ability is essential for the acquisition of language.”

“Speech-discrimination skill in 6-month old infants predicted their language scores (words understood, words produced and phrases understood) at 13, 16 and 24 months.”

Language learning depends on experience with language that stems from “live human interaction [not hearing words on TV, for example]. Infants . . . need a social tutor when learning natural language. . . . [A] richer social environment extends the duration of the sensitive period for learning.”

Read more at http://www.alihk.net (see, especially the graphic on page 832 depicting language-related skills of children 0-12 months of age – before young children speak their first word)


“Environmental Stimulation, Parental Nurturance and Cognitive Development in Humans.”
Farah, Martha, J. et al. Developmental Science (in press).

Language development is predicted by environmental stimulation in the first years of life. Memory development is predicted by parents’ nurturance (a nurturing parent buffers against harm to brain development caused by too much cortisol, a stress hormone).

Both cognitive systems – language and memory – underlie children’s learning potential and therefore, success in school.

Read more at http://www.psych.upenn.edu


From recent economics research:

“Catch ‘Em Young.”
Heckman, James J. (2000 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics). Wall Street Journal, 2006.

“It is a rare public policy initiative that promotes fairness and social justice and, at the same time, promotes productivity in the economy and in society at large. Investing in disadvantaged young children is such a policy. . . . Early interventions for disadvantaged children promote schooling, raise the quality of the work force, enhance the productivity of schools, and reduce crime, teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency. They raise earnings and promote social attachment. Focusing solely on earnings gains, returns to dollars invested are as high as 15 percent to 17 percent.”

“A large body of research in social science, psychology and neuroscience shows that skill begets skill; that learning begets learning. There is also substantial evidence of critical or sensitive periods in the lives of young children. Environments that do not cultivate both cognitive noncognitive abilities place children at an early disadvantage. Once a child falls behind in these fundamental skills, he is likely to remain behind.”

Heckman's Graph

Read more about Heckman’s research, including information about the graphic above, at
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/103/27/10155 and


From recent research in health sciences:

Education, Social Status, and Health.
Mirowsky, John and Catherine E. Ross. N.Y.: Aldine De Gruyter, 2003.

“Education has a powerful influence on health for several reasons. Its array of consequences is present in many aspects of life throughout the entire lifetime. Those consequences are uniformly positive, . . . [and] accumulate across the lifetime, producing ever larger health advantages. The accumulators operate on all levels, from the economic down to the intracellular.”

“The capacity for resource substitution is a major element of health-promoting learned effectiveness. Education develops the capacity to find out what needs to be done and how to do it, and develops habits and skills of self-direction. Together those prove effective when seeking health.”

Read an introduction to this book-length study at http://books.google.com/


Selected bibliography (*denotes key reference) (back to top)

Bruer, John T. The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain
     Development and Lifelong Learning. New York: Free Press/Simon & Schuster,

Byrne, B., et.al. “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Early Literacy.” Journal of
     Research in Reading 29 (2006): 33-49.

*Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2007). A Science-Based
     Framework for Early Childhood Policy: Using Evidence to Improve Outcomes in
     Learning, Behavior, and Health for Vulnerable Children.      http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. National Research
     Council. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington,
     D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000.

Duncan, Greg J., et al. “Reducing Poverty through Preschool Interventions.” The Future
     of Children, 17 (Fall 2007).

*“School Readiness and Later Achievement.” Developmental Psychology 43 (2007),
     1428-1446. http://www.apa.org/

*“The Family: America’s Smallest School.” Educational Testing Service, Policy
     Evaluation and Research Center, 2007.

*Farah, M.J. et al. (in press, 2008). “Environmental Stimulation, Parental Nurturance and
     Cognitive Development in Humans.” Developmental Science.      http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~mfarah/, then click on publications and scroll down
     to this article.

Foy, J.G. and V. Mann. “Home literacy environment and phonological awareness in
     preschool children: Differential effects for rhyme and phoneme awareness.”
     Applied Psycholinguistics 24 (2004): 59-88.

Gest. S.C., et al. “Shared book reading and children’s language comprehension skills:
     the moderating role of parental discipline practices.” Early Childhood Research
     Quarterly 19 (2004): 319-336.

*Ginsburg, H.P., et al. “Mathematics Education for Young Children: What It is and How
     to Promote It.” Society for Research in Child Development XXII, 1 (2008).

Gladwell, Malcolm. “Do Parents Matter? Judith Rich Harris and Child Development.”
     Annals of Behavior August 17, 1998/ reprint in The New Yorker.

Harris, Judith. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. New
     York: Touchstone, 1998.

*Hart, Betty & Todd Risley. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of
     Young American Children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 1995.

The Social World of Children Learning to Talk. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
     Publishing Co., 1999.

*Heckman, James J. “Skill Formation and the Economics of Investing in Disadvantaged
     Children.” Science 312 (June, 2006), 1900-1902.

Hulbert, Ann. Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About
     Children. New York: Random House, 2003.

*Knudsen, Eric I., et al. “Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on
     building American’s future workforce.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
     103 July 5, 2006.

*Kuhl, Patricia K. “Early Language Acquisition: Cracking the Speech Code.” Nature
     Reviews/Neuroscience 5 (November 2004): 831-43.

*Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life. University of
     California Press, 2003.

Leppanen, U. et al. “Development of reading skills among preschool and primary school
     children. Reading Research Quarterly 39 (2004): 72-93.

*Mirowsky, John and Catherine #. Ross. N.Y.: Aldine De Gruyter, 2003.

*NICHD Study of Early child Care and Youth Development. National Institutes of Child
     Health and Development, National Institutes of Health. 2006.

Pinker, Steven. “Children.” In The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.
     New York: Viking, 2002. 372-399.

*Richter, Jan. “New Thinking on Children, Poverty & IQ.” Nov. 10, 2003. Connect For
     Kids online. January 29, 2006. http://www.connectforkids.org/node/516/

*Risley, Todd. “Meaningful Differences in the Language Learning Environments of
     Young American Children.” December 2004. Children of the Code interview.
     February 22, 2006. http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/risley.htm

*The Science of Early Childhood Development. (2007) National Scientific Council on the
     the Developing Child.      http://www.developingchild.net/pubs/persp/pdf/Science_Early_Childhood_Development.pdf

Shonkoff, Jack P. and Deborah A. Phillips, eds. National Research Council and Institute
     of Medicine. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood
     Development. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000.

Snow, Catherine E., M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffin, eds. National Research Council.
     Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National
     Academy Press, 1998.

*“Striving to Achieve: Helping Native American Students Succeed.” National Caucus of
     Native American State Legislators, 2008.

*Tallal, Paula. “Neuroscience, Phonology and Reading: The Oral to Written Language
     Continuum.” February 10, 2003. Children of the Code interview. October 28,
     2005. http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/tallal.htm

Temple, Elise, et.al. “Neural deficits in children with dyslexia ameliorated by behavioral
     remediation: Evidence from functional MRI.” Proceedings of the National
     Academy of Science 100 (March 4, 2003), 2860-65.

Turkheimer, Eric. “Three Laws of Behavior Genetics and What They Mean.” Current
     Directives in Psychological Science 9 (October 2000): 160-64.

*Turkheimer, Eric, et al. “Socioeconomic Status Modifies Heritability of IQ in Young
      Children.” Psychological Science 14 (November 2003): 623-28.

van Praag, H. et al. “Neural Consequences of Environmental Enrichment.” Nature
     Reviews. Neuroscience 1 (2000), 191-198.

*Woodrow School of Princeton University and the Brookings Institute. School
     Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps. The Future of Children 15.1 (Spring

     Especially these articles:

     Duncan, Greg J. and Katherine A. Magnuson. “Can Family Socioeconomic
          Resources Account for Racial and Ethnic Test Score Gaps?”

     Dickens, William T. “Genetic Differences and School Readiness.”

     Noble, Kimberly G., Nim Tottenham, and B.J. Casey. “Neuroscience
          Perspectives on Disparities in School Readiness and Cognitive

     Currie, Janet. “Health Disparities and Gaps in School Readiness.”

     Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne and Lisa B. Markman. “The Contribution of Parenting to
          Ethnic and Racial Gaps in School Readiness.”

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