Though language and literacy development starts well before a child's school years, providing a rich environment can set children up for success. Providing access to literature, opportunities for play, building vocabulary and modeling communication create environments that foster language and literacy development.
It makes sense that an environment supporting language and literacy would be a rich and stimulating one. From birth, babies respond to the high-pitched tones that many parents, especially mothers, intuitively use with babies. However, it's important to note that baby talk words, such as saying "wa-wa" for water, actually slows development, according to "Pyschology Today." Instead, parents should clearly enunciate so that children can acquire new vocabulary quickly. Both at home and at daycare or school, children need to be surrounded by books, props that encourage imaginative play, and opportunities for creative expression, such as music and art. Children should be read to daily, and often want to hear their favorite stories over and over. When they have opportunities to interact with a stimulating environment, children will develop language skills.
Young children learn through play. According to Scholastic, dramatic play has the most profound effect on language development. Accordingly, children should have access to props that encourage dramatic play, such as dress-up clothes and toys that allow them to act out real-world scenarios, such as playing house, going to school or going shopping. The interaction with adults and other children provided by this type of play encourages the development of oral language skills.
Vocabulary is the building block of language and literacy. Without a rich vocabulary, children will struggle to express themselves, as well as to comprehend what they read later on. To encourage vocabulary building, children should have opportunities for extended conversation, such as explaining something, telling a story, or again, using their imagination. According to Children's Data Bank, children who are read to every day have much larger vocabularies than those who are not. Trips to the zoo, museums or other attractions also build vocabulary.
Parents, teachers and caregivers can support language and literacy development by providing good models of communication. When children are taught social skills, such as saying, "please," and "thank you," and conducting conversations, this facilitates language development. Adults can foster communication by starting at the child's level and building on it. In daycare and classroom settings, a smaller ratio of adults to children facilitates communication and language development, because children have more opportunities to interact and converse with adults, who model more sophisticated levels of communication than their peers.
- Scholastic: Building Language and Literacy Through Play
- David Dickinson and Patton Tabors: Fostering Language and Literacy in Classrooms and Homes
- Early Childhood Research and Practice: Language and Literacy Promotion in Early Childhood Settings: A Survey of Center-Based Practices
- Children's Data Bank: Reading to Young Children
- Dr. Bettye Caldwell: Should Parents Talk Baby Talk?
- Psychology Today: Baby Talk Hinders Learning
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images