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    Language Development & Literacy

    Introduction

    How do children learn language and begin to understand reading and writing??

    Around 3 years old, most children are able to communicate their ideas and feelings, ask and answer questions, and understand what is said to them. They are able to talk about things that happened in the past and that will happen in the future.
    They can participate in conversations with others, responding “on topic” some of the time. They can tell stories and relate simple sequences. They may combine imaginary and real events in their stories.
    Around 3 years old, children like to play with the sounds of words, making up silly rhymes. They also like to make up “nonsense” words and sometimes experiment with “potty” language. They have learned many of the communication “rules” of their family and culture and when using language only make a few errors, such as “I wented to the store.” They also like to learn “big” words, like the names for specific types of trucks.
    At around 4 years old, children understand that letters on a page in a book are different from pictures. They are learning that letters make words and that when different people read words, the words stay the same.
    They are interested in drawing and writing and will “pretend” to write letters and words, even before they know how to write real letters.
    At around 4 years old, children also pretend to read books, turning the pages and “telling the story” either from their memory of the story or by talking about the pictures. Many have also learned the words to several songs.

    Bilingual Language Development
    How do children in bilingual or non-English-speaking families learn English?

    Young children are very skilled at learning language and have the ability to learn two or more languages even before they begin school.
    Families who speak a language other than English at home can use their home language as their primary language with children. Learning their home language helps children feel connected to their family and culture. They can learn English at the same time if the family is bilingual or they can learn English when they begin Day care/Creche or school.
    Families support language learning by talking, reading and singing to their children in their home language. In this way children learn many language skills that will help them when they begin learning English.
    Children who have this opportunity to become bilingual at an early age will benefit from the use of both languages throughout their lives.

    Listening and Speaking
    How do speaking and listening help a child learn language?

    Learning to speak and to engage in conversation are very important first steps to learning to read and to school success. The more words children hear and the bigger their vocabularies, the better they do in school.

    Children are eager learners of language and are fascinated with the power of language:

    to communicate their needs, feelings and ideas,
    to share their personal experience with others,
    to make things happen,
    to get and give information,
    to solve problems,
    to help them make connections with people, and
    to create and tell stories.
    Children learn language by listening, talking, practicing new words, and being listened to and responded to. Children learn words when you use new words with them. Families have many, many everyday opportunities to help children learn language.

    Here are some tips to support your child’s language development and interest in reading:
    You can support children’s language development during your routine daily activities. Language isn’t something that has to be taught in “special lessons.” When families talk with children they are naturally teaching language. Using language with children is all that families have to do. The more language families use with children, the more children will learn.
    In the car, at the store, on a walk, at home doing chores, while a child is playing, during meals, and at bedtime.
    Talk about
    what you are seeing,
    what they are doing,
    what you are doing,
    what you did together earlier, or
    what you are going to do later.
    Add a few new descriptive words when you are talking to children. One of the ways we naturally build vocabulary with children is by introducing new words along with the familiar ones they already know and with visual clues so they can more easily understand the new words.
    “There is a dog.”
    “There is a big, bouncy dog.”
    “There is a big, bouncy, curly-haired dog who is sniffing the stone and wagging its tail.”
    Share stories with them. Stories give you a chance to share what is important to you, what you value and how you think about things. Stories can help children feel connected to you and invested in learning language.
    Children love to hear stories from your childhood. These stories can teach them about history, family and culture.
    Stories can be about your day, or about things you are interested in. You can use stories to remember and reflect on your child’s day.
    Stories don’t have to be long. They can include what happened, how you or your child felt about it, how people solved problems, or what it was like for you to be a child.
    You can use stories to demonstrate ideas that you value, for example, persistence, creativity, compassion, generosity, caring, bravery, teamwork.

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