Story Festival provides tools for valley educators, parents | PostIndependent.com

Story Festival provides tools for valley educators, parents

Jeanne McGovernAspen CorrespondentPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

When early childhood educators from across the valley gather in Glenwood Springs today for the sixth annual Story Festival, they will most certainly dive into the topic at hand: “The Developing Child: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Physical, Cognitive, Social, Emotional Child.”But, perhaps more important, they will leave the day-long conference with important tools to take back to their classrooms and to share with the most important people in the lives of the children they care for – parents.”We are doing this to inspire and support the teachers, and to let them know they are some of the most important people in the world when it comes to young children,” said Jayne Poss, founder of the local chapter of Raising A Reader, which is sponsoring today’s festival with the Roaring Fork Valley Early Learning Fund. “But really, at the bottom line, it’s the parents that make a difference. Parents must not only keep their children fed and safe, they must engage them. And the early years are so important in this regard, especially when it comes to language acquisition and reading readiness.”And this, said Poss, is at the crux of Raising A Reader’s mission, which is not to teach infants, toddlers and preschoolers to read, but rather to create a love of books and words that in turns sets the stage for future success in school and life.”We know through our research that there are critical periods of development – windows of opportunity, if you will – when brains are designed to acquire certain types of information, learn certain things,” said Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute of Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. “When it comes to language, these critical periods are during infancy and early childhood.”Kuhl, along with her husband and fellow scientist Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, will speak at today’s conference with the hope of sharing their research with the assembled early childhood educators. They will be joined by Dr. Gabrielle Miller, executive director of the Raising A Reader national office.”We are not talking about flash cards in the crib here. It’s as simple as reading and talking to your child; not having a video do this,” said Kuhl, speaking by phone this week from her university office. “We have proven that when a teacher or parent talks and reads to a young child, the brain begins to do amazing things. It begins to make connections, and those connections are the building blocks for learning that sets the stage for a lifetime.”In fact, the importance of learning in infants, toddlers and preschoolers cannot be emphasized enough, the experts agree. Thus, Poss hopes the teachers in attendance – who represent school district preschools, child care centers, Head Start, Early Head Start, family child care homes, teen parent programs and children’s libraries from Aspen to Parachute – will share their new knowledge with parents.”You would be surprised at how many parents don’t do this very simple thing. They don’t read to their children, or at least not often enough,” said Poss. “But if parents can learn just how important this is – for today and for their child’s future – they will do it. “And it will make a difference in their child’s life.”jmcgovern@aspentimes.com