Language and Literacy

Language and Literacy

From the day we are born we begin to develop language and communicate with our environment. We begin by hearing and responding to sounds. As we grow from infants to children, we begin to refine our communication by learning to listen for different purposes and respond with words instead of sounds and gestures. Understanding spoken language (Receptive Language) precedes speaking, (Expressive Language). This means that children must have the opportunity to listen to and understand words before they are able to use them meaningfully in their speech. These receptive and expressive skills are combined to form our oral language skills and are the foundation for future success in reading and writing.

Developing good oral language skills happens as children have an opportunity to listen and talk to parents, relatives, friends, etc. As they experience the opportunity to answer yes/no and open ended questions, and participate in the natural give and take of conversation, they are thinking, accessing knowledge and applying skills, which is the essence of basic communication.

Here are some simple activities that promote oral language development which, in turn, will enhance the development of reading and writing:

  • Talk meaningfully to your child. Engage in conversation throughout the day. Do not use baby talk, speak at a rate, volume, and tone appropriate to the child’s age and the environment.

  • Read with your child every day. A child is never too young for a bedtime story. As they get older, involve them in the process by asking questions such as “What will happen next?”, “What would you do?”, “What did you like best?” Or have talk about a picture. Read slowly, with inflection, using different voices for different characters, follow words with your finger so the child sees that reading moves left to right. Teach them how to hold a book and turn the pages.

  • To develop listening and memory skills, play listening games: Simon Says, Telephone, etc. Pause while reading to ask about the story so far, character’s names, what happened to them, what might happen next.

  • Model and teach the rules of conversation early. Conversation involves both listening and speaking so teach your child that we do not interrupt, we do take turns talking, we stay on topic, and we use appropriate volume, (inside/outside voice).

  • Teach your child to talk about and describe his/her feelings and ideas.

  • Introduce new words by incorporating them into conversation. Instead of a familiar word, substitute a word of similar meaning. For example, instead of saying “Let’s take a walk”, you could say “Let’s take a stroll”.

  • Begin to teach letter names and sounds by using the letters in the child’s name. After those are mastered, add a few more. After learning the sound of the letter, find other objects/people in the environment that begin with the same sound. Look for the letter in books, signs, packages, etc. Teach your child to “read” environmental symbols and signs: Restroom, Exit, Stop, etc.

Oral language skills are best learned in a natural setting. The more opportunities to match experiences with words, the richer the language benefit. Rhyme words, name categories, have a letter hunt, just talk, talk, talk with your child.