Language: A Key Contributor to Early Literacy
One of the most important parts of a child’s early literacy experience actually has nothing to do with books or print at all. Instead, it is all about their early language experiences centering around talk – both being talked to (not at!) and later, talking back.
Researchers Betty M. Hart and Todd R. Risley focus on this idea in their book "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children". They discovered that the most important predictor for a child’s language acquisition was how much language they heard on a daily basis from their caregivers (in the case of this study, the parents). The amount of spoken language heard by children had a direct impact on both the quantity and quality of their spoken vocabulary. A strong oral vocabulary lays a strong foundation for a quality early literacy experience.
So talk to the children in your care, and talk a lot! Again, I stress talking to kids, meaning you keep up a running commentary and dialogue going, even before the child can really talk back (yes, sometimes you might feel like you are talking yourself silly!). But talking to kids using descriptive words, and praise, and positive interaction is infinitely important. Sure, sometimes we have to talk at our kids, giving directions, managing behavior and routine, etc. But make sure a vast majority of what your kids hear is positive and interactive.
Chat about what you are doing as you give a bath, make dinner, take a walk, etc. Observe that that car over there is red and that the slide at the playground is blue and twisty. Anything, really! Keep up a chatter of narration about your day, and engage your child in even the smallest task and routine. A language rich environment paves the way for a successful literacy later in life (but only a few short years away!) in very powerful ways.
What are some ways you can think of to engage a child in early oral language experiences?