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26 July, 2016 - 09:15 By Tony Quested

Crowd cash sought for ‘bilingual from birth’ initiative

Cambridge EdTech company Skylark Learning is bidding to raise £20k crowdfunding cash to publish a new resource for introducing the English language to children from birth.

The St John’s Innovation Centre company has chosen Kickstarter for the fundraising venture.

Skylark English for Babies is a multi-sensory toolkit providing a fun, interaction-based method for meaningful language learning. Developed in Cambridge with the help of British education and language specialists, the resource has been created to inspire little learners in a home environment.

The Kickstarter campaign aims to bring Skylark English for Babies to a new audience – parents who have some knowledge of English and who want support in raising their child bilingual.

At the heart of Skylark English for Babies is a number of target words that are repeated throughout a range of educational aids ranging from a Skylark puppet, songs, story books, word books, activity books, play cards and online audio material.

Skylark English is designed to be used with a child from birth, ensuring that it hears the full range of English phonemes as early as possible to give them the best chance of being able to pick up the language naturally.
Very young babies can detect and use the sounds that make up all the languages in the world, but by 12 months, they have difficulty distinguishing between the sounds of languages they have not been frequently exposed to. Research also shows that brain circuits associated with language are most flexible before the age of four, so learning a second language before this age offers the best chance of becoming fluent.

“We began working on this project three years ago,” says product development manager, Donna Powell. 

“Skylark English first appeared in a Russian version about 16 months ago. The reviews have been excellent and it was fantastic for us to see how much families enjoyed using the product.”

Skylark Learning is also collaborating with Anglia Ruskin University academic Dr John Lambie, reader in psychology at ARU’s Faculty of Science & Technology, to develop a new product about emotional awareness.

Dr Lambie is a member of the Child Development and Emotion and Well-being Research Areas at the university. He has conducted several studies into emotional awareness, validation and regulation in both children and adults and the effects of parenting styles.

Donna Powell said: “Collaborating with an academic of Dr Lambie’s standing enables us to create a resource that is based on thorough scientific research, methodologically sound and, most importantly, highly effective.”

Dr Lambie added: “Combining my research with Skylark Learning’s methodology allows us to design an exciting and pioneering new product.”

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