Last week we talked about the amazing research that has been done in regard to the beginning of language. This research is in the book by Diane McGuinness, Growing a Reader from Birth, Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy. This week we will summarize the key points on what works best to insure the development of language and literacy after the baby is born. There is no reason why any parent can’t copy what works best. Here is the list:
The quantity of parents’ verbal output is the best predictor of a child’s vocabulary later in time. It is a numbers game—the more the parent says, the more words the baby will learn. So play the game! Talk, talk, talk!
The quality of the communication with the child is a stronger predictor of a child’s verbal development than social class. This means that how a mother interacts with her infant is extremely important. It is the complexity of the language and the sensitivity to the child that matters most.
Five styles of communication have been identified that greatly enhance language skills. They are, in order of importance:
Guidance style. Providing gentle invitations to play and avoiding prohibitions such as saying, “no, the baby can’t drive the car”.
Symbolic emphasis. Making connections between words and things and more words.
Feedback tone. Positive feedback is good; negative feedback is bad.
Language diversity. Using different nouns, verbs, and adjectives as much as possible.
Responsiveness. Tuning in. Following baby’s lead, and don’t order baby around.
This sounds so simple, but the reality is that all of us will fall back on our more comfortable mode of communication with our infants, especially when we are tired. However, knowing what we may be doing and wanting to improve the outcome in language and literacy for our little ones is the first step in changing our own behavior.
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