Pilot program debuts new set of children’s shows
It is already the fourth season of Amazon Studios pilots — Amazon is having such fun that last year it did it twice — in which prospective series are paraded for public view and comment. It is now no longer an experiment, but a certified Real Thing, and it shows.
The grown-up series make the news — "Transparent" and its Golden Globes and all — but there is a children’s wing to the studio, too. Where the adult Amazon pilots have tended toward the slightly edgy tone of premium cable, the kids’ shows, being aimed at young eyes and meant to be more or less improving, have tended to be more familiar, more conservative.
That said, the latest crop of pilots released to public view this month are on the whole quite accomplished and ambitious and perhaps just a little bit crazier. (They are also presented as more finished products than in seasons past.) Half are directed toward preschool viewers, half ostensibly toward viewers 6 to 11, though the best will appeal to older kids as well.
What they share is the notion that children can, and often must, take control of their environment.
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times
Neighborhood diversity sways kids
Your child may be engrossed with his Baby Einstein Take-Along Tunes
or trying to escape from the grocery cart. But he’s listening, processing and willing to teach us.
In a recent study of 19-month-olds, University of Chicago doctoral student Lauren Howard found that children who heard multiple languages in their neighborhoods were more receptive to people who spoke languages other than their parents’ language.
“We measured imitation. At this age, that’s how they show us their willingness to learn,” explained Howard, lead author of the report titled “Neighborhood Linguistic Diversity Predicts Infants’ Social Learning.” The experiments tested how well the infants could learn new tasks from a non-English speaker.
The study, which included 82 children from the Chicago and Washington, D.C., areas, was published in the November issue of Cognition.
“Babies are not only affected by parents and caregivers — previous studies proved that — but also by people they hear at the store or on the bus,” Howard said. “Incidental exposure matters.”
Does this mean kids in diverse communities will grow up to have open minds?
“It’s a start,” Howard said. “Already, at this age, they’re actively learning.”
This is familiar territory for many adoptive families, said Adam Pertman, president of the Boston-based National Center on Adoption and Permanency.
“Adoption is a good prism to understand issues like this because adoptive families have a ‘laboratory’ where they see this daily — not just with international adoption, but with interracial adoption,” said Pertman.
While studies like Howard’s suggest that parents increase their children’s cultural exposure, “adoptive parents have been making these efforts for years, and sociologists have been studying them for years,” said Pertman.
Mary Child and her husband, David Youtz, of Tenafly, N.J., are raising their four daughters, all adopted from China, in a multicultural community by intention. The benefits extend beyond language, Child said. Her 19-year-old daughter, Sophie, speaks English and is learning Mandarin, and her 10-year-old triplets speak English, are studying Spanish and will take Mandarin lessons in middle school.
One reason their daughter appreciated the diverse high school she attended, said Child, is because “the kids there defied expectations, like she did. One student, for example, had parents who were Korean and Danish, but he spoke Swedish. Not all the kids looked like their parents, either.”
Cultural diversity can be within reach, even in unlikely areas. Although she grew up in “not very diverse” Beaver Dam, Wis., Morgan Butterbrodt, 23, said she learned about other languages and cultures from the many students her family hosted through the AFS-USA international student exchange program (afsusa.org).
“It’s the little differences that make you more compassionate and less judgmental,” Butterbrodt said. “Yuilya from Kazakhstan, for example, was very disciplined because she couldn’t go to college unless her grades were good. Matias from Paraguay wasn’t used to being on time because his culture is more laid-back.”
For families unable to host a student for a whole year, AFS-USA offers other volunteer opportunities, such as being “welcome families” to ease students’ transitions.
Leslie Mann, Chicago Tribune