How Parents can Boost Language and Literacy Development at Home

language and literacy development

If you’ve ever watched a toddler melt down, you know how frustrated they can feel when they’re unable to communicate. Language development – and later, literacy development – is fundamental to your child’s future. It allows your child to express feelings, it supports problem-solving skills, and it’s vital to relationship-building. It’s also the first step to learning to read and write.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “reading is fundamental.” You may not have given much thought, however, to how true that phrase really is. Reading skills are the building block for students who want to do well in school; they form the basics for learning in just about every subject.

So, if you’d like to give your child a boost before he or she goes to school, what can you do?

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to support your child’s language and literacy skills. It really just takes lots of talking, listening, and reading together.

How to Encourage Your Child’s Language Skills

(1) Talk with Your Child

Beginning in your child’s first year, talk to him/her! It may seem silly, but having conversations with your babbling infant teaches him/her about communication. Babbling, in fact, is a sign that your baby is developing language. Your baby wants to be heard! So, show him/her that you’re listening. Babble back, repeat sounds, explain what you’re doing, and sing or rhyme to your baby. You really can’t talk too much … it all helps.

(2) Listen and Respond to Your Child

Don’t just talk at your child; Listen, too! Even if your child is simply babbling, gesturing, or trying out words, you can respond. Ask your child questions and repeat what he/she is trying to say. For example, if your child points to an object and says “toy,” you can respond, “Do you want to play with the toy?” When you do this, it encourages your child to communicate. By simply tuning in, you’re helping your child develop.

(3) Read with Your Child

Encourage a love of reading early by sharing lots of books with your child. Reading aloud to your child allows him/her to learn new vocabulary in different contexts. Sharing picture books helps your baby learn more about the world. When you point to certain words in the book as you say them, you show your child that there’s a link between written and spoken words. All of these activities help your child develop literacy and appreciate the value of books and reading.

Studies show that kids who have been read to at home are more prepared for school. Children who have not had exposure to books, on the other hand, usually start school with poor literacy skills. It’s easy to set aside a few minutes before bedtime to read with your child, and it’s so important to do so.

What You Can Expect as Your Child Grows

Generally, children say their first words when they are between nine and 18 months old. By age two, children can use over 200 words and understand many more. They begin putting sentences together as they grow.

Around age three, children begin speaking more and more. What’s interesting is they don’t use language just to ask for things; they also use language to play pretend.

By the time your child enters preschool, he or she has started to understand the rules of language. At that age, children use language to connect their thoughts, just the way adults do.

Common Concerns

Are you concerned about your child’s language development? It’s not uncommon. Many parents listen eagerly for their child’s first word, and worry about speech impediments or learning difficulties early.

If your child isn’t following the timeline outlined above, remember that it’s not an exact science. In fact, there’s a pretty long range of time for each language milestone. Some children are late talkers; others begin forming sentences quite early. Every child is unique.

If you do feel that there’s a worrisome delay in your child’s language development, discuss it with your pediatrician. Here are a few signs to look for as well:

  • Lack of focus or poor eye contact
  • Pronunciation that’s hard for you to understand
  • Trouble understanding directions
  • Lacking empathy for others or a sense of humor
  • Repeating what you say or repeating themselves

Mary Margaret Teachers Support Language and Literacy Development

At Mary Margaret, we understand the importance of language and literacy development. That’s why we provide a book-rich environment and build communication skills with the young children in our care.

If you’re looking for a daycare center that cares about the development of each child, come visit us! We’re happy to discuss our learning programs with you.

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