In the past, it was thought that children learned to speak by imitating their primary caregivers. Imitation is an important component of language acquisition, but more recently, linguistic studies have shown that children are ”pre-wired” from birth to acquire a spoken language. Caregivers merely facilitate the process and guide children along during language acquisition. By the time children are three, they should have a firm grasp of spoken language.
Educators have discovered that the ease or difficulty a child experiences in language acquisition is closely tied to their ability to learn to read and write. If parents notice their child is having difficulty learning to speak, early intervention will prevent their child from falling behind when they begin learning to read and write.
Development of the brain doesn’t stop after a child is born. Many areas of the brain are still forming important synaptic pathways. An infant’s brain is like a blank canvas and a rich learning environment are the paint strokes.
From the time children are born, parents can provide a rich environment by speaking to them often in expressive voices with exaggerated expressions. Even though infants don’t understand what is spoken to them, they will soon establish the connection that communicating involves speaking and facial expression.
A rich environment also includes a lot of visual stimulus like bright primary colors in the infant’s nursery, mobiles over the infant’s crib, soothing music and especially, plenty of visual and verbal interaction with caregivers. The stimulus encourages healthy development of infant’s brains, particularly in the areas that support language.
Parents don’t have to wait until their child learns to speak to introduce them to reading; they can introduce their children to books while they are infants. Books made for very young children have soft cloth covers for easy handling, thick cardboard pages that prevent tears, colorful pictures and a few words.
If parents actively read to their infants, pointing to pictures and using an expressive voice, children will learn at a very early age that there is a communication connection between books, pictures and speaking and they will associate reading with positive memories. All the positive stimulus will make children eager to learn how to read and they will enjoy the process.
Daniels, Harvey A. (1983). Famous Last Words: The American Language Crisis Reconsidered. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.
Perry, Bruce How Young Children Learn Language. Retrieved December 21, 2006, from Scholastic: Early Childhood Today Web site: http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3463