Sunday, January 1, 2012

Beginning Year Eight with Literacy

Let’s start the New Year with a series of discussions on building literacy skills. We know from longitudinal research that babies who have parents who talk with them a lot, building communication turn taking skills, are the children who learn to read almost without being taught.
Reading is dependent on a combination of skills. Developing these skills starts very, very early in life. One skill is decoding the written word, or sounding it out. Another skill is to be able to understanding the content of what you are reading. The kinds of things parents do with babies help both of these skills develop.
Decoding the written word depends upon having developed all the brain connections that help a Russian baby learn to speak and later read the Russian language, help an American baby learn to speak and later read the English language. Before six months of age, babies’ brains are prepared to learn any language in the world. They can hear all the nuances in speech in all languages. However, parents usually speak only one language as a routine in their home. It is the continual exposure to the rhyme, rhythm, and sounds of that one language that teaches the baby where one word stops and another starts, teaches the baby the beginning and end of a chunk of meaning we call a sentence. After about six months babies. no longer hear the sounds of the languages they are not exposed to. They are able to focus on and begin to develop babbling that closely resembles the language spoken in their home.
At a Christmas party I learned that a young couple in my extended family is expecting a baby this summer. The mother-to-be is from Germany and her native language is German. The father’s native language is English though he is multi-lingual. They are planning to speak both languages to their baby and so this new little one will have some interesting sorting out to do as he or she begins to talk. This sorting out process will likely mean that there will be a small delay in talking, however once their child begins to talk, the exposure to two languages will be like having additional brain food.
Next week we will think about the content of what we say to our children and how that helps in learning to read.


A winter day is very, very cold.
A winter day is very, very cold.
It may just snow, you never, never know.
A winter day is very, very cold.

Make the w sign for winter with each hand and shiver.  Sign snow.  Shake head ’no’ and use facial expression for ‘you never know’

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