Learning Language and Loving It!
Young children look for language. They respond to sound even before they are born! There are studies that conclude babies are attending to sounds, rhythms, language “lilts” of their culture and the sound of voices while they are in utero. It is fascinating. Annie M. Paul, author of Origins has a wonderful Ted Talk titled When Does Learning Begin (YouTube search) that speaks directly to her study of newborns and their responses to their mother’s voice and the sounds that they would have heard in the environment during gestation.
As infants become part of their families, they hear the language and sound of their family’s voices, music and “home”. And they are listening all of the time! As a babies grow and develop, they will startle at a loud noise, watch intently as their mom (first) and then other family members talk to them, and be soothed and comforted by quiet and familiar music. They are learning language.
Language and vocabulary is critical to success in school and society. But children don’t come with words – they need adults to teach them. Language depends on growing strength in muscle movement and coordination; you use your lips, tongue and controlled breath to form letters and make sounds. Consider the differences between saying these letters b, m, g, f and s. Now making the letter sounds. How about the sound blends of th, sh, ch, and fl. Takes a lot of coordinated strength, control and movement and kids love it! They are learning language every day.
While writing this I am listening to children playing in the playground outside. I can hear background sounds, single words, singing, cheers and laughing – these 4 year olds are building friendships, organizing games, giving instructions, planning actions and celebrating success all through their command of language! They are amazing.
Grow language with your children of all ages:
Read. Read. Read. Read. Read
Read anything and everything.
Be a model of reading.
Have books available to children everywhere that they are; on table shelves in the living room, in baskets in their bedroom, with cookbooks in the kitchen, in the basket in the bathroom, in the car, at grandma’s, in their backpack taken to the park….
Recognize a baby’s or toddler’s “reading”. This is progressive skill development starting when they simple pick a book up, then open it, then stop at a favorite picture, then bring the book to you, ask to have it read (for the 100th time), talk about the pictures and story with you, find words and labels, talk about the story, write about the story…
Take children to the library. You will be astounded by the marvelous ways that libraries offer children experiences with literature! www.buffalolib.org
Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk
Talk about anything and everything. Children learn the vocabulary, content and needed structure of their culture.
Talk through what you do with children i.e.
Babies – “Ohh. You are crying because it is time to eat. Look. I have your bottle. Let’s sit on the rocker and I will feed you. This is my favorite time of the day.”
Toddlers – “Wow! You found your yellow jacket in the hallway, great job! I can see that you know how to put your arms through those sleeves – that’s pretty important!”
3 year olds – Yes that is a big truck next to our car! Hmmm I wonder what is inside that truck; maybe food for Wegmans, maybe hay to feed cows on the farms, maybe furniture for a new house? What do you guess?”
4 year olds – “I love this playground. I wonder what that sign says over there – come on let’s check it out. That climber looks like it will be fun today and there are lots of apples and animal crackers in our bag for snacks. Come on let’s play!”
Sing. Sing with favorite radio or CDs in your home and in the car (of course child appropriate). Make up songs for children- everyone knows the tune to Happy Birthday. How about this; It is sunny today. It is sunny today. It is sunny, it is sunny – let’s go out and play. Sing classic songs; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. The vocabulary and content of songs teaches children so much about language.
Play. Play. Play. Play. Play.
Play is the natural path of learning for children. It is primary and a foundation to the development of all skill sets needed for all content areas. Play is not a luxury. It is a necessity. It is critical to the learning language and children love it!