"Readin', writin' and RotariansThe club hopes to help children'slanguage skills."

"Toddlers who are read to in the right way develop significantly better language skills at an earlier age than other tots.A Bainbridge Island psychologist is teaming with the Rotary Club to spread the word as wide as possible.This technique is a universal preventive intervention, said developmental psychologist Colleen Huebner, a faculty member at the University of Washington. By that I mean it's like a good vaccine - it does no one any harm and does most children a great deal of good.Huebner and a team from the Bainbridge Island Rotary Club have finished an instructional video that teaches the reading technique. Using Rotary's organization, they are trying to disseminate the video around the country.We have had inquiries from Sheffield, England, from Arkansas, Texas and Chicago, said Rotarian Walter Braswell. The more people become aware of this, the more enthusiastic responses we get. The club has received requests for 400 copies of the tape.The technique, called Hear and Say, was developed in the 1980s by a New York psychologist.The nub of the approach is interaction between the two- to three-year-old toddler and the reader that links visual images and language. The reader points to a picture in the book and asks the child a what is it question that requires a verbal response. The reader then asks follow-up questions about such things as shape, color, or use for the object.If the child does not know the answer, the reader provides it, then asks the child to repeat it.This is done for five to ten minutes a day for three to four weeks, Huebner said, then they work on putting the words together in longer groups.When she was a post-graduate student at UW, Huebner read about the technique, which showed benefits in vocabulary and comprehension. But in the study, the reading had been done by professionals.My question was whether the technique could be provided to parents through community organizations, she said. I trained children's' librarians to teach parents to use the technique.Huebner studied the results through studies in different geographical areas, including Seattle and Chicago. Consistently, she found significant benefits to children from the technique no matter who the reader was, or who trained the reader.My studies found benefits both in learning to put the proper name to a picture and to find the picture that goes with a word, she said. And although this wasn't something that can be measured, the parents said their kids behaved better, too.The Rotary involvement stemmed from a conversation between Huebner and Bill Frankenburg, a retired pediatrician and a Rotary Club Member.From work done in Colorado, we had learned that it is important to start early, Frankenburg said. We found that children of less educated parents were already behind in verbal development by age 18 months.Frankenburg, who had been professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Medical School, saw promise in Huebner's technique.The keys are the one-on-one relationship with the child and getting the child speaking, Frankenburg said.While he saw broad application for the technique, the challenge was to disseminate how-to information. The answer - an instructional video.A grant from Rotary International provided the money. The video was shot at the Bainbridge Library and the Suquamish community center using local people in late spring and summer. John Rauch of Bainbridge did the video shooting and editing.It was a true community effort, Huebner said.The video can be used by someone who will read to toddlers - parents, grandparents, siblings, babysitters or other caregiver - or by people who will teach the readers.But it won't teach children how to read, Huebner said. I don't want to give anyone that impression.The video is available from the Bainbridge Rotary Club for $9.95, plus shipping and handling.And we encourage people to copy it, Braswell said.Braswell is getting in touch with Rotary Clubs around the country to encourage them to introduce the program into their communities.Like Frankenburg, Huebner says the technique is only as good as the reader. What makes a book magical is the adult that comes with it, she said. "

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