UW News

April 19, 2007

Lecture series focuses on early childhood development

Beyond cooing and cuteness, early childhood is absolutely critical to every human being’s development. But what do we know about how a baby begins to learn? What are the right ways to teach a young child who is just learning how to speak? And in our fast-paced society where both parents often must work for economic survival, what impact does daycare have on a child’s development?

These issues and more will be addressed when the UW Early Childhood Development Lecture Series is held in April and May. The lectures, which are free and open to the public, will be held April 25, May 2 and May 9 in 110 Kane.

Through a multidisciplinary approach involving researchers from education, nursing, speech and hearing sciences, psychology and pediatrics, the UW is a world leader in understanding the educational, social and emotional aspects of development during a child’s formative years.

The series opens April 25 with the lecture, Early Learning, the Brain, and Society, by Patricia Kuhl, a professor of speech and hearing sciences and co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

This opening lecture has been designated as the Provost’s Distinguished Lecture for the spring. Introduced in 2006, the Provost’s Distinguished Lecture program highlights a topic of great importance to our society. Twice a year, University of Washington Provost Phyllis Wise, as the UW’s chief academic officer, selects an internationally recognized UW faculty scholar to bring relevant knowledge about this topic to the attention of the community.

Kuhl’s research focuses on language acquisition and language processing by the brain. She has played a major role in demonstrating how early language exposure alters the mechanism of perception and is investigating language processing by the “bilingual brain” from infancy to adulthood. Her work also shows that language processing involves many senses, including vision, both in early infancy and in adulthood.

A frequently consulted national expert, she is the co-author of The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn, and has appeared on the PBS Series NOVA: The Mind, The Power of Ideas, and The Secret Life of the Brain. She was invited to the White House in 1997 by President and Mrs. Clinton to speak at their Early Learning and the Brain Conference and was invited back to the White House in 2001 to speak at President and Mrs. Bush’s White House Summit on Early Cognitive Development.

The series continues on May 2 for the lecture Children in Daycare: Science, the Media, and Public Opinion, presented by Cathryn Booth-LaForce, the Charles and Gerda Spence Endowed Professor in Nursing. She will explore the effects of daycare on early childhood development and how long they last. She will also talk about the long-debated effects of daycare and separate the science-based evidence from media reports and public opinion.

The series concludes on May 9 with Building Blocks for Starting School the Right Way. Ilene S. Schwartz, professor and chair of the Department of Special Education in the UW College of Education, will discuss the skills and behaviors related to success in early grade school and the programs that are needed to help children acquire these skills.

For more information about the Early Childhood Development Lecture Series or to register, please visit www.UWalum.com or call the UW Alumni Association at 206-543-0540.