An expert on early childhood instructed a roomful of parents at the Barness Family Jewish Community Center to constantly sing, talk and read with their children in order to develop cognitive skills at an early age.
Dr. Jill Rosenzweig, a longtime academic who received her doctorate in education from University of Arizona, emphasized the need for extensive parental involvement in her presentation Tuesday in Chandler.
"Read, read, read; talk, talk, talk; play music, do everything in your ability to develop language, doesn't matter what language," Rosenzweig said on the topic of language development in the home. "If a child is proficient in their own language when they come to school, they'll learn English so quickly."
She said that growing up bilingual is a great asset to children cognitively, socially and intellectually. However, if a child does not live in a bilingual home, there are other avenues to enhance language and literature skills, such as singing, making up alternate endings to books, writing letters and using puppets to tell stories.
"(These) allow kids to interact effectively with adults and peers," she said, "and that's a lot to accomplish by age 6."
Rosenzweig emphasized the benefits of enrolling a child in an early childhood-development program by explaining how its instructors use methods that teach children skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
An active member of the JCC, Kelly Kron, who is eight months pregnant, said she sees the extensive progress her firstborn, 20-month-old Chloe, has made since beginning the early childhood program at 14 weeks old.
"She knows all of her body parts. Well, she can point to them, she can't really talk yet ... She knows hand motions to songs ... She learned that all here," Kron said. "And they tell me she sits down and eats!"
Kron decided to enroll Chloe in the program, as well as attend Rosenzweig's speech, because "there is no manual" for being a parent, and she is always looking for ways to learn how to parent more efficiently.
"(I've learned) how to structure and redirect the kids and eating habits and what's normal and what's not normal," Kron said.
Another member of the JCC, Lindi Samakosky-Wach, mother of 3-year-old Evan, said Rosenzweig's words helped her see Evan's progress in his development and where he should be for the future.
"(I learned) how I can get my kid interested in school," she said. "He learns every day different songs, he does an art project at least four days a week, and he's happy to come to school."
Rosenzweig also encouraged parents to go into their children's classrooms to observe the learning environment. By doing so, they can gain insight and discover ways to enhance the learning atmosphere in their homes, she said.
"If you walk into the classroom ... and that kid runs in there to get in that classroom because there's something that's interesting, you're batting a thousand," Rosenzweig said. "If the child hides behind the mother, take a look at your classroom, see if you want to go in that room."
Kron said that at the JCC, there are "lots of toys and lot of stations. They have a science center and math center and themes of the week," which ease any unrest she has about leaving her 1-year-old in others' hands all day long.
Rosenzweig elaborated on the message of her presentation in a personal interview.
"I really wanted to get across that no matter how old the child is, talk, sing, communicate, read, look at picture books, just provide that kind of stimulation," she said.
She left the enthusiastic parents with these words: "Enjoy your child. Getting involved in your child's education at the earliest level is very important and just staying involved all the way through and realizing the power parents bring to a situation."