|About HopaUpcoming WorkshopsVolunteerDonateBoard & StaffNews BlogContact UsHome|
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.”
“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.”
“Children’s early learning environments differ profoundly across lines of both race and
“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."
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
Read more about Heckman’s research, including information about the graphic above, at
From recent research in health sciences:
Education, Social Status, and Health.
“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
Byrne, B., et.al. “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Early Literacy.” Journal of
*Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2007). A Science-Based
Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. National Research
Duncan, Greg J., et al. “Reducing Poverty through Preschool Interventions.” The Future
*“School Readiness and Later Achievement.” Developmental Psychology 43 (2007),
*“The Family: America’s Smallest School.” Educational Testing Service, Policy
*Farah, M.J. et al. (in press, 2008). “Environmental Stimulation, Parental Nurturance and
Foy, J.G. and V. Mann. “Home literacy environment and phonological awareness in
Gest. S.C., et al. “Shared book reading and children’s language comprehension skills:
*Ginsburg, H.P., et al. “Mathematics Education for Young Children: What It is and How
Gladwell, Malcolm. “Do Parents Matter? Judith Rich Harris and Child Development.”
Harris, Judith. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. New
*Hart, Betty & Todd Risley. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of
The Social World of Children Learning to Talk. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
*Heckman, James J. “Skill Formation and the Economics of Investing in Disadvantaged
Hulbert, Ann. Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About
*Knudsen, Eric I., et al. “Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on
*Kuhl, Patricia K. “Early Language Acquisition: Cracking the Speech Code.” Nature
*Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life. University of
Leppanen, U. et al. “Development of reading skills among preschool and primary school
*Mirowsky, John and Catherine #. Ross. N.Y.: Aldine De Gruyter, 2003.
*NICHD Study of Early child Care and Youth Development. National Institutes of Child
Pinker, Steven. “Children.” In The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.
*Richter, Jan. “New Thinking on Children, Poverty & IQ.” Nov. 10, 2003. Connect For
*Risley, Todd. “Meaningful Differences in the Language Learning Environments of
*The Science of Early Childhood Development. (2007) National Scientific Council on the
Shonkoff, Jack P. and Deborah A. Phillips, eds. National Research Council and Institute
Snow, Catherine E., M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffin, eds. National Research Council.
*“Striving to Achieve: Helping Native American Students Succeed.” National Caucus of
*Tallal, Paula. “Neuroscience, Phonology and Reading: The Oral to Written Language
Temple, Elise, et.al. “Neural deficits in children with dyslexia ameliorated by behavioral
Turkheimer, Eric. “Three Laws of Behavior Genetics and What They Mean.” Current
*Turkheimer, Eric, et al. “Socioeconomic Status Modifies Heritability of IQ in Young
van Praag, H. et al. “Neural Consequences of Environmental Enrichment.” Nature
*Woodrow School of Princeton University and the Brookings Institute. School
Especially these articles:
Duncan, Greg J. and Katherine A. Magnuson. “Can Family Socioeconomic
Dickens, William T. “Genetic Differences and School Readiness.”
Noble, Kimberly G., Nim Tottenham, and B.J. Casey. “Neuroscience
Currie, Janet. “Health Disparities and Gaps in School Readiness.”
Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne and Lisa B. Markman. “The Contribution of Parenting to
|P.O. Box 10892 | Bozeman, MT 59719 | ph 406-586-2455 | Contact Us|