Raising multilingual children: The case for immigrants and other families

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According to a recent report by the Belgian government organization Kind en Gezin (Child and Family), immigrant parents should speak in their mother tongue with their children so that the child will learn her mother language naturally and having established a solid foundation in the language her parents speak best, she’ll move on to learn the language of the country she lives in very well.

You can either try to read the relevant news in Dutch from GVA or you can visit its Google translated version.

Multilingual children

Multilingual children

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The case for child welfare in OECD countries: Let the data speak for itself

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After reading an interesting piece of news titled ‘1 in 4 children in US raised by a single parent‘ I decided to explore recent OECD statistical data in more detail. Being the data geek I am, I was more than happy to find that OECD created very nice and easy-to-use visualization interfaces for many data sets related to the welfare of children:

OECD Data Visulization - Children in Poor Homes

OECD Data visualization - Children in Poor Homes

From average disposable income to inequality in literacy, from infant mortality rates to public spending figures for early childhood, it is possible to dive into the world of data and see how good your country does, compare it with other countries and learn more about the parameters OECD considers worth recording for analyzing childhood welfare. More

What can brain science tell us about raising a kid? Apparently a lot!

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Before reading further why don’t you answer the question below:

Surprised by the percentages? Curious about the correct answer? Do you think you come up with correct answer by simple intuition and common sense?

The poll above is the first question from “Are you a Brain Rules parent?” quiz which includes many interesting questions about raising a happy and smart child. And the quiz is from the accompanying web site of the wonderful book Brain Rules for Baby book by John Medina (for both online and PDF versions of the quiz, please visit http://brainrules.net/brain-rules-for-baby-parenting-quiz).

I’ve just finished reading the book and I think that Dr. John Medina provides a very solid account of early child development which is based on brain science. I can say without a moment’s hesitation that I’m more than happy to have found such a highly readable book from a “developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorder”.
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Children’s Bookshelf: The Environment

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It’s still a bit early for me to think about children’s books that present the environmental problems in a suitable way but I think I’ll buy a lot of them in the near future. Today I saw a nice graphical review of these kind of books at New York Times:

Children's Bookshelf: The Environment

Children's Bookshelf: The Environment

Should we teach our kids computer programming regardless of their technical inclinations?

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Computational thinking: vital for child's analytical ability

Computational thinking: vital for child's analytical ability

I’m still not sure whether teaching children programming should be considered a universal aspect of general education and I try not to force my background into education. I guess any father who is a professional programmer (and likes to code for fun in addition to his professional life) is going to be more than willing to teach programming skills to his children but other than personal preferences, is teaching programming really useful for nearly every kid? There may not be a final answer but at least there are indications showing that is the case. According to a recent article Computational thinking vital for child’s analytical ability:

“Dr. Jeannette M. Wing, the President’s Professor of Computer Science and head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, was speaking at Carnegie Mellon Qatar’s Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series.
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Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

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Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

My expectation from “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives” was simple: Help me learn the basics of the latest scientific research on how the soon-to-be-born babies are affected by their environment, by their parents behaviors and conditions. The book satisfied this criteria more or less while disappointing in many other aspects.

First of all, I don’t know whether it was author’s general style or she was forced by her editor’s commercial pressure but frankly I’m really bored to death with so many personal details and the over-worked narrative structure of the book. Readers of The New Yorker may be buying this sort of story-telling and I’m not against a story told well, however there is neither a coherent nor a very well told story here. A 288 page book could easily be condensed into 100 or less pages without sacrificing any fact related to the prenatal development.
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The health of children born to mothers aged 40 or more: better or worse?

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Yesterday I read a very short piece in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard which was about an interesting study. According to the article, the children who are born to older mothers (aged 40 or more) have better health. The newspaper article is at http://www.standaard.be/artikel/detail.aspx?artikelid=8338NJIR and its automatic translation can be read at http://goo.gl/erEq2.

There was no link in the newspaper article but I believe it is about the scientific article titled “Health of children born to mothers aged 40 years or over, analyses of two national cohort studies” (recently published in Archives of Disease in Childhood). According to the research article:
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TEDxKids @ Brussels 2011

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48 kids are going to get their hands dirty, soldering, tinkering, hacking, and composing. A series of hands-on workshops led by world-class Mentors will introduce the kids to a range of skills and methods. Meanwhile, grown-ups will be treated to an all day program of leading thinkers and experts. Our line-up of speakers includes: Mark Frauenfelder (MAKE Magazine), Cory Doctorow (BoingBoing.net), Tan Le (Emotiv), and Gever Tulley (Tinkering School) among others.

The world premier of TEDx Kids@Brussels will be taking place on June 1, 2011 at St John’s International School in Waterloo, Belgium.

For more information, visit: www.tedxkids.be

TEDxKids @ Brussels 2011

TEDxKids @ Brussels 2011

How dangerous is it for children to be born and live close to a nuclear power plant?

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If you are approximately 20 km away from a large nuclear power plant, can see it from your balcony and about to become a father for the first time, I guess it is perfectly normal to be a little bit concerned about the effects of nuclear energy centers on children. Especially after the recent nuclear incidents in Fukushima.

Doel nuclear power plant seen from our balcony

Doel nuclear power plant seen from our balcony

I’m not an expert in radiation or its effects on children and a quick research shows that there are not many extensive and comprehensive scientific studies on this important topic. One of the most recent and striking comments I read was from “Commentary: childhood cancer near nuclear power stations“. According to its conclusion:

It is proposed that the observed high rates of infant leukemias in the KiKK study may be a teratogenic effect from incorporated radionuclides. Such effects, egg congenital malformations, are often recognised at birth but infant leukemia is not easily ascertained. Such babies are born pre-leukemic with full-blown leukemias only being diagnosed after birth, i.e. after their bone marrows have accumulated sufficient radioactive decays.

It is recommended that US regulatory agencies should establish a KiKK-style epidemiological study of cancer incidences near all US nuclear power stations with precise distances being measured between cancer cases and nuclear reactors.

I also took note of few other articles related to this subject matter:
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Which countries are more child-friendly in terms of maternity leave? (Take 1)

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I decided to do a very crude visualization to see which countries are more child-friendly in terms of maternity leave. I was able to find data for some countries. The data set I used is from ‘The Clearinghouse on International Developments in Child, Youth and Family Policies at Columbia University – Table 1 Maternity, Paternity, and Parental Leaves in the OECD Countries 1998-2002‘. I used Google Fusion Tables to store and visualize the data. From the OECD table I took the first maternity leave number (ml) (in weeks) and the ‘Percentage of Wage Replaced (%)’ (p) to calculate a C-friendliness (Child Friendliness Index) and my crude formula was:

C-friendliness = ml * p

(if p = 0, then p = 1).

You can examine the normal map:

Child Friendliness of Some Countries - 1

Child Friendliness of Some Countries - 1

You can also see it as an intensity map (the greener the better):
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