News Roundup January 15th

Head Start Participation Has Positive Impact on Childhood Obesity A University of Michigan study looked at body mass index associated with Head Start participation. The findings show that kids who participate in Head Start tend to have a healthier weight by kindergarten than similarly aged kids not in the program. In their first year in Head Start, obese and overweight kids lost weight faster than two comparison groups of children who weren’t in the program, researchers found. Similarly, underweight kids gained weight faster. Because almost one-quarter of all U.S. preschool-aged children are overweight or obese, and obesity in childhood often continues into adulthood, experts worry about future health problems in overweight children.”Participating in Head Start may be an effective and broad-reaching strategy for preventing and treating obesity in United States preschoolers,” said lead researcher Dr. Julie Lumeng, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development. Read about the study here.

A Steady Steam of Talking to Babies Is Even Better for Them Than Reading Does reading to infants benefit their cognitive development at 9-months-old? Results of an Irish study recently published in the journal Language Teaching and Therapy highlights the potential of reading and talking to infants, not just for language and literacy development but also for other aspects of cognitive development. Read more about the study in this NYMag article or you can access the full study here.

Listening to Speech Helps Form a Baby’s Foundation for Subsequent Learning In an article titled Listen Up! Speech Is for Thinking During Infancy, to be published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Northwestern University psychologist Sandra Waxman and New York University’s Athena Vouloumanos asess the impact of human speech on infant cognition in the first year of life. “It’s not because [children] have low vocabularies that they fail to achieve later on. That’s far too simple,” said Waxman, the Louis W. Menk Chair in Psychology, a professor of cognitive psychology and a fellow in the University’s Institute for Policy Research. “The vocabulary of a child — raised in poverty or in plenty — is really an index of the larger context in which language participates.” Consequently, Vouloumanos advocates speaking to infants, not only “because it will teach them more words,” she said, but because “listening to speech promotes the babies’ acquisition of the fundamental cognitive and social psychological capacities that form the foundation for subsequent learning.” Read more here.



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