The determinate of a child’s long-term success in both school and life begins during the early years of language development. Studies have shown that the academic success seen at ages 9 and 10 can be directly attributed to the amount of talk children hear from birth through age 3.
The greatest period of growth in speech and language development occurs in children between 2 to 5 years of age. Reading and writing abilities will continue to develop throughout their lives, but children who receive greater attention will avoid developmental gaps seen in children who do not.
When does it begin?
During the first few months of life, babies begin experimenting with language. They imitate sounds and tones heard from the adults around them, often picking up associated gestures and facial expressions, too. Between 16 and 18 months, toddlers begin developing a vocabulary. This vocabulary is significantly affected by their parents’ educational and economic backgrounds.
As children progress from the ages of 2 to 5, their language development and communication skills will increase at a rapid pace. A toddler’s vocabulary will typically be around 450 words by the time they are 2 to 3 years old. By the time they are 3 to 5 years old, a child’s vocabulary will usually jump to between 1,000 and 1,500 words.
How Families and Childhood Professionals help
Family interactions are the first and most important step in children’s literacy development. The relationship between the child and the parent or guardian has a direct impact on the effectiveness of his or her learning.
Families with lower literacy status have shown to slow the development of their children. The reason being is that families are typically the primary language teachers, determining their children’s actual language, dialect, and rules of communication.
During these early years, it is crucial for families to read with their children as well as share stories and songs together. This not only helps children begin to develop literacy skills, it also begins to convey the importance of learning to read and write.
Early childhood professionals are the important second step to a healthy literacy development. These professionals play a key role in the positive development of very young children. For this reason, both the quality of the childcare and the quality of the relationships between the professional and the children are essential to language and literacy development.
An environment is needed for children to have the opportunity to practice what they have learned at home, through print and songs, both on their own and with other children their age. Childhood professionals can help create this environment through positive and supportive roles that continue the verbal and written stimulation received in the home.
It is essential for the childhood professional to develop a warm and supportive relationship with the children in his or her care. This will foster a level of trust that will allow the professional to build children’s confidence as communicators. These professionals will help encourage children’s development as storytellers, stimulate an appreciation of reading and writing, and build upon their love of learning. This strong environment, during a toddler’s crucial years of learning, will strengthen the literacy development of children and lead to advanced cognitive and language development.
Finally, it is important that families and childhood professionals recognize the role each plays in supporting the children’s development at every step. It is imperative that a sense of collaboration is fostered between parents, guardians, childhood professionals, and educators as they all have a shared responsibility for the language and literacy development of these children.
Each child will learn at an individual pace and will gravitate towards specific learning methods. The closer the parents and childhood professionals work together, the better they can discover how the child is developing at every stage. This collaboration will include sharing of data, evaluation and progress reports, and support through transitions between educational stages and schools, beginning from birth all the way to grade 12.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDAP.pdf
- Zero to Three:
Connecticut State Department of Education: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Early/literacy.pdf
- Connecticut State Department of Education: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Early/literacy.pdf