Some suggest that the process of acquiring language begins in the womb. The intricate wiring begins from such an early stage of development.
It’s important because it’s what makes all other learning possible. This is why learning all the skills we will need for communicating with other people throughout our lives is one of the main developmental tasks of early childhood. (Something we talk about when looking at developmental milestones)
Speech is an important component, but so are things like taking turns in conversations, body language and eye contact when speaking or listening to someone. Your baby is learning all about these aspects of communication in the contacts they have with other people.
So, what has the way babies learn language got to do with books and reading?
There are lots of ways to help children develop strong language skills but there is lots of evidence that exposing them to lots of language by reading to them is one of the most important things you can do.
Why Language Skills Matter
Helping our children develop strong language skills should be a goal for all of us for two reasons:
- the evidence shows that children who start school with highly-developed language skills do better throughout their school years. This is because oral language is, for most of us, the basis of literacy;
- good verbal communication skills are the building blocks of healthy, happy relationships with other people at school, at work and in social settings;
(This is why EARLY INTERVENTION is ESSENTIAL if you believe your child is not reaching their speech and language milestones.)
This has an enormous huge impact on their learning at school, on their social relationships and also on their self-confidence.
So how do you help your child develop strong language skills?
Long before they can speak, babies understand a great deal of the language they hear every day.
They learn to speak by hearing lots and lots of words repeatedly in meaningful sentences and questions. Over time, children internalise the language they learn so that it becomes their thinking.
This is why it’s so important to engage your baby in ‘conversation’ from his earliest days, even though at first he won’t be able to say any intelligible words.
Talking to him when you take him out and about is really important.
Naming the things he sees and talking about them will help your baby learn to talk and will encourage his efforts.
It also helps build his knowledge of the world around him.
How you speak to your child has an impact on how his speech and communication skills develop and there are some simple strategies you can use to help the process along.
Why is Hearing Lots of Different Language Important?
Children who hear fewer words and shorter sentences at home are far more likely to arrive at school with smaller vocabularies.
In fact, in some cases their vocabularies are 12-14 months behind other children.
Research shows that these children have the lowest reading scores at school. They are rarely able catch up as they grow older and in fact often drop even further behind the other children in the class as time goes on.
On the other hand, children who arrive at school with wide vocabularies, having heard more words and longer sentences at home, usually learn to read easily and naturally and have the highest reading scores as they go through school.
BUT, this is not always the case….and if you have any questions, please contact us here at Sherry B Consultants.
How Does Reading Help With Acquiring Language?
Research shows that reading to children often and in the right way when they’re young plays a vital role in helping them acquire language and vocabulary.
It also helps them learn about the world around them which is another important part of the preparation-for-reading process.
This happens because reading to children immerses them in language and exposes them to a greater number and variety of words, sentences and ideas than they would otherwise hear.
The simple phrase ‘once upon a time’ for instance rarely comes up in everyday conversation yet it is such a rich part of our language and story-telling history.
Think too of the words contained in many nursery rhymes. They are rich in many aspects of your child’s vocabulary, encourages speech development and will mean he has a head start when he begins to learn to read at school.
Emmitt, M; Zbaracki, M; Komesaroff, L; & Pollock, J. (2010). Language & Learning. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.