Language development coincides with the development of thought in young children. Cognitive skills occur alongside language skills, so a child who struggles with language development will likewise struggle in other academic subjects and areas of development. Language is communication, both expressive and receptive. Expressive language is spoken or gestured language or communication. Receptive language is the speech or communication that is received and understood.
Language capabilities, while not expressed in newborns, are clearly hardwired into human beings. Language acquisition follows some general, universal patterns. However, without an environment that provides modeling for language and interaction, a child will not develop the capability for language with which he or she was born. Language development begins at the start of an infant's life, although expressive language will not occur until several months later. By the time a child reaches 5 years of age, however, his or her vocabulary will be at several thousand words.
Language and literacy (writing and reading) skills develop together. Early language and literacy skills develop years before a child has formal schooling and require social interactions and an environment that engages the child in communication. Experts used to believe that children developed language skills separately, and then were capable of acquiring literacy skills. However, we now accept that these skills are intertwined and that a child doesn't develop the skills in isolation from one another.
Language development directly influences school success. It's one of the best predictors of a child's academic achievement. When a child excels at language skills, it affects all other academic skills. Reading is essentially taking meaning from print, and a child is able to take those written symbols and infuse them with meaning because of early language development.
Language development is also important in a child's ability to convey and express emotion. This begins with an infant's beginning babbles and coos and the connection that is built between the baby and her caregivers. Early language consists more of cries to verbalize needs and gradually gives way to more verbalization. As a child's language development improves, fewer tantrums and emotional outbursts typically occur. A child that can convey emotion through words will be able to deal more effectively with school and academic tasks and will be more successful socially in the school setting.
To build a child's language and literacy skills, provide your child with a language-rich environment. Read to him daily and converse with him about what you read. Ask and answer questions, and engage him in conversation. Have books, magazines and papers around for your child to handle and see adults reading.
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