Without strong language skills, children will struggle in school and in life. Literacy (reading, writing and spelling) is the foundation for learning – and the path to success – for students.
Yet, we often take for granted how complex the human language system is. Just think about what this amazing system does – it helps us follow practical instructions, understand abstract stories and build worlds in our mind, all from words on a page (or a screen). How can we help children develop these skills as they grow? There are a number of ways.
Use Baby Talk
We all know what “baby talk” is. What many don’t realise is how important it is – “baby talk”, due to its exaggerated and deliberate emphasis on word sounds, helps infants learn the key sounds and patterns of their language.
Use Daily Talk
One of the best things an adult can do for a child’s language development is to talk to them often, about everyday things. This helps children learn:
- Individual word sounds (for example, through rhyming and word play)
- What individual words mean
- How to make new words by modifying known words (“happy, happier, unhappy”)
- Correct word order (“Ryan went to the local shop” rather than “Ryan went to the shop local”)
All of these skills, developed through everyday interactions, build a great foundation for a child’s reading skills.
Read With Feeling
Did you know that if you read enthusiastically to a child, they will remember and understand more? Research has revealed that expressive reading – putting emotion into the tale – helps a child’s comprehension of the story.
Use Every Opportunity
Life is busy, but there is good news: parents and educators can help children develop strong language skills through everyday interactions. The following are things you can do every day:
- Use “baby talk” with very young children – at home and in the classroom
- Talk during daily activities – to build vocabulary and language structure
- Play! Get your child to ask questions, talk about their environment
- Read aloud, with enthusiasm – help your child’s memory
- Conversation – teach them how to take turns speaking in a conversation for better social skills
- Turn off the TV – children learn language best from other people
None of the above suggestions are difficult; you can weave them easily into your day. In fact, they can be fun – but more importantly, you’re setting your child up for success in school and life.
This content was adapted from an article by Beth Connelly, Speech Pathologist
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