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FOR RELEASE: April 29, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Child Care Choices Affect Language Development
May is Better Speech and Hearing Month

Choosing a childcare for your young child is often a difficult decision. Choosing a childcare that will positively enhance your child’s language development requires some specialized focus. The month of May has been designated Better Speech and Hearing Month by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. What better time than now to focus on your child care choice and look for those characteristics that are known to enhance children’s language development.

Three main aspects of childcare that can positively impact language development include: the providers, the environment and the curriculum. According to the book Beyond Baby Talk by Apel and Masterson, the most important factor in your child’s child care situation and its effects on language development is quality adult language stimulation. Providers who are warm and genuinely interested in your child, combined with a strong background in child development, provide the best language models for young children. Research has shown that the educational level of the provider is strongly tied to their understanding of child development.

When looking at the child care environment, several components come to mind. First impressions are always important. Is the center welcoming, clean, light and open? Are there a variety of toys and materials available to children? Do these materials encourage children’s use of imagination?

Some of the best imaginative play situations come from everyday life. Look for areas in the classroom devoted to dress up, cooking, literacy, etc. Another important factor in a child care environment is the ratio of children to provider. This ratio may influence the quality of language models your child receives.

When looking at the curriculum of a childcare, you may find a variety of approaches. Three general approaches are most commonly found: the direct teaching approach, open atmosphere approach and a combination of both. The direct teaching approach includes a traditional teacher-student model.

You may observe use of drill cards to teach letters or words. There may be some “testing” over information presented.

The open atmosphere concept presents information with little direction and allows the child to learn when they are ready. Teachers ask few questions in this model and allow the child to lead the learning activity.

In the combination curriculum, learning is seen as an interaction between direct instruction from the adult and activities chosen by the child. This situation requires the provider to have knowledge of the child’s level that enables them to guide the child through activities that will encourage learning.

In general, research has shown that direct instruction curriculum for young children is least effective in helping them learn. The other two types have been found to be most helpful depending on the situation.

The Department of Human Services Division of Child Care provides a rating system for all licensed child care centers in the state. A rating of one to three stars is granted to child care centers based on set criteria. Based on the number of stars a childcare has received, information such as provider/child ratio and provider educational level is available. This information is easily accessed through the DHS website: www.okdhs.org .

Remember, the more informed you are as a parent, the better decision you can make for your child. Collect what information you can on prospective child care centers and then visit each one. Talk to the directors and the providers about educational levels, ratios, environment and curriculum. May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, but learning language is an everyday adventure!

To locate a Speech Language Pathologist near you for more information about speech and language development, call your local county health department, or contact Beth Martin, coordinator, Speech Language Pathology, Child Guidance Service, Oklahoma State Department of Health, (405) 271-4477; e-mail bethm@health.state.ok.us

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