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Researchers to Examine Language Comprehension in Toddlers

A San Diego State University developmental psychologist is heading up a new $2.2 million study—funded by the National Institutes of Health—to try and pinpoint whether a baby's ability to comprehend language is a predictor of strong literacy skills and academic success later.

Margaret Friend
, who directs the Infant and Child Development Laboratory at San Diego State, and fellow researchers from the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland, will follow 250 toddlers over five years. The researchers will compare comprehension skills of the toddlers—who will range from 16 to 20 months old—in the second year of their life to how they perform in the fourth year of life to see if there is connection between early comprehension of language and school readiness.

To gauge their understanding of language, the babies will hear words and be asked to touch images on a touch-screen monitor that match the words. The babies in the study will be from English, Spanish and French-speaking homes, as well as Spanish-English and French-English bilingual homes.

Some preliminary findings stemming from this project have already been published in the September 2011 issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.

The researchers hope their findings will lead to ways to identify language delays earlier in children so that interventions can be used before kids reach the classroom.

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