Using Reading to Help Develop Language Skills


Oral language skills are the foundation for a child to develop the reading and writing skills they need as they start and progress through school.  Researchers  who study early language development have identified six conditions in a child’s environment that can promote language learning (Dickinson, D. K., Griffith, J. A., Michnick Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. , 2012).

An easy way to create these conditions at home is through reading with your child.

The six conditions that promote language learning are:

  1. Children need to hear many words often.  Between the ages of one and five years of age, children learn approximately 3-4 new words per day.  Books expose children to many new words, because they often include new, unfamiliar words, use the words in a variety of sentences throughout the book and offer opportunities to hear the words over and over with repeated readings of the book.
  2. Children learn words best when they are interested.  Books catch a child’s attention because they have topics of interest to them and colorful illustrations that engage them.
  3. Children learn best when adults are responsive to them.  Books encourage responsiveness because it’s easy to share focus while reading a book and notice what your child is looking at or talking about.  In addition, it’s easy for a child to show their parents what interests them in a book, both with and without words.
  4. Words are learned when meanings are made clear.  This happens when parents point to pictures, explain what words mean and use the word in context.
  5. Vocabulary (words) and grammar (rules about the structure of a language) are learned together. Reading books with your child exposes him to new words used in grammatical sentences.
  6. Positive, extended conversations support language development. Conversations are “positive” when adults acknowledge the child’s interests, expand on what the child has said, add new ideas, and show interest in the child. The shared focus of looking at a book together lets your child know you are interested in what they have to share/say.

By reading to your child, you not only promote language development, you will nurture an early love of books and reading!





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