me what you can do to help your child develop better language skills -
my answer is
Read to them!, .. as infants, as kindergarteners, as
fourth graders .. Read to them!! Talk to them!! Read to
them some more!!!
This isn't just for the warm fuzzies, or to help your child get to sleep, although those are fine too. Books and reading generally use language that is more complete and complex than most of our conversation during the day. Stories in books can provide richer vocabulary and structure, and children learn to listen and sequence in a way that TV never can teach. Remember that you also are providing a role model - if you read and show that you care about reading, your child learns that reading is important too. According to the Institute for Academic Excellence, "It doesn't matter if the students are kindergartners or seniors in high school, one of the best ways to motivate them to read more and better books is to read aloud to them."
Talk with your child about the story and the characters as you read. Not as a test, but for discussion, ask -- Who is in this story? What is the problem? What will happen next? What should they do? Should they have done that? Would you like this person for a friend? Why? Why not? What if?
I have been providing some in-class stories with language activities at Whitney -- this supports development of specific language skills and vocabulary, provides repeated exposure to concepts, encourages children to think on a more abstract level, and offers more literate styles of language use. Describing experiences, explaining events in sequence, participating in group discussion, retelling stories, drawing conclusions, predicting outcomes, interpreting figurative language, developing vocabulary, differentiating between realism and fantasy, fact and opinion - all fit in with our school district's language arts goals.
Interactive Reading Aloud also teaches 'story grammar' that helps children understand and remember new stories - "developing a sense of story is a basic facet of the child's way of remembering". I've written more detail about my classroom program on this page: **SLPs, Literacy, and Inclusion**. If we can help teach students story structure, listening, sequencing, and comprehension with fun, enthusiasm, giggles, drama, suspense, excitement, then they are that much more likely to pick up books themselves, and reading for themselves will give them that much more language structure and vocabulary.
While oral language is learned universally in every culture, written language and reading are not, and must be directly taught. As intertwined as these skills are, my primary goal in using language literacy activities is to expand oral language skills. From my experience as an SLP, I am aware of how important phonemic awareness is in learning how to read, with direct instruction for systematic phonetics, coding and decoding. Read more about it here: Phonological Awareness: Principles and Implications for Reading Instruction
Literacy - is a way of looking at the entire environment for a child to
learn about print before they actually learn to read. Nursery rhymes, playground
rhymes, simple poems, predictable pattern stories are all important introductions
to reading and literacy. More details are available: Emergent
Literacy Research Synthesis
Caroline Bowen, PhD, an Australian SLP and author, has some excellent suggestions for Encouraging Pre Literacy Skills in children with developmental phonological disorders, specific language impairment, and dyspraxia.
The Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a good description of books and techniques for reading aloud to your children. ".... We all know the important role that reading plays in school and in life. We are now finding that the single most important activity for laying the foundation for literacy and learning to read is reading aloud to children especially during the preschool years... " Check out their page on Early Literacy.
point of view - Mem Fox, a well known Australian author of children's books,
describes a very interesting angle of teaching children to read and the
development of literacy:
Mud Not Fireworks". She asks the question -- "Which has the greater
effect on literacy: the method and the text, or the affective quality of
the relationship between the teacher and the taught?"
Email us -- clouss (at) wy-os.net