Children’s Literacy Initiative

Children’s Literacy Initiative helping to develop Language and Literacy in Early Childhood (ages 0 – 5)

It is a common misconception that learning begins once a child enters school. In reality, children are learning as soon as they open their eyes. They are learning whether or not the world is a safe place. They are learning whether or not people care about them.

They are learning about whether or not it is safe to explore new things.  And they are learning about language. Every time you talk to a child, you are building that child’s vocabulary. You are helping a child develop the ability to comprehend words. You are helping the child learn to articulate his or herself. A child’s vocabulary has a significant impact on whether or not a child will be prepared to learn to read and write.

There are two kinds of talk: functional talk and conversation. Functional talk refers to the “everyday” talk required to get things done: eat your breakfast. Put that are your shoes? Get in the car. Brush your teeth. Come here.

All kids get about the same amount of “functional talk.” But what really makes the difference is conversation. Conversation is the act of simply talking to your child about the world. Here are some examples of a typical conversation with a child: “Wow, it’s really cold outside today. You’ll need your jacket! Do you think we should wear a hat? Hat’s will help keep us warm and protect us from the cold.” “Look, the stoplight just turned red! See that light, it’s red!  When the light turns red, we have to stop. When it turns green, we can go. It sure is taking a long time to turn green. Oh, there it goes!”

Another misconception is that you have to use”baby talk” when speaking to little children. It is true that the rhythm and “sing-song” voice used to talk to babies helps brain development for little babies. The tiniest ones – those that are less than one year old – benefit from baby talk. But as soon as they turn one, it is encouraged to talk to your little child in the same way you would speak with an older child. This will help build your child’s vocabulary. A child’s brain is growing at an incredible rate, and the word “incredible” is not any more difficult for a child to learn than the word “good” when they are little. It’s about the importance of Literacy development in the right way. It’s all about learning.

Why does vocabulary help literacy? As their vocabulary increases, it becomes easier to recognize words on a page, because they are already familiar with the word. This will not only help to decode the print, but it will also make it much easier to comprehend the text. It will also be easier for them to mentally refer to more words “in their head” when they are writing. All across America, numerous Literacy Volunteers are helping children as they learn to speak and write. These efforts contribute considerably when it comes to preventing and fighting illiteracy among our country’s population.

The best thing about conversation is that it’s free! You just need to take the time to intentionally have conversations with your child every day, and is possible, together with the entire family. A study compared children that had heard about 300 words an hour to a child that heard about 2000 words an hour. By the time they enter kindergarten, there is a gap of millions of words. Which child do you think will be most prepared to read?

It’s easy for parents to believe that once a child enters school, teachers are now responsible for ensuring that their children learn and the importance of reading and writing together with students cannot be underestimated. But overwhelming evidence indicates that parental involvement and support is critical to helping children learn and succeed.

A recent study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reveals that “students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary (elementary) school show markedly higher scores when they are fifteen-year-olds than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. This advantage shows up regardless of the family’s socioeconomic background.