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Get Ready for School: Language Development Tips for Parents

08.03.10 Get Ready for School: Language Development Tips for Parents

Research tells us the single best thing you can do to help your child learn and love to read is to read aloud to them.  Even in the upper elementary grades and middle school. I teach fifth and sixth grades, and read aloud time is one of their favorite times of the day. At a teaching conference this summer, I learned some shocking statistics:

*A child in a family on welfare hears 3 million words a year

*A child in a working class family hears twice that:  6 million a year

*A child in a professional family hears 11 millions words a year (Academic Language, Academic Literacy by Eli R. Johnson)

The achievement gap starts early, and it becomes hard for children to catch up.  By involving your child in language, in as many ways as possible, no matter what your education or economic background, you are developing key skills for your child's success.  

Sometimes it is hard to carve out time to read with your little one or ones. But it is crucial.  How can you extend language learning while reading, and other times?  Here are some ideas:

*Play games with Academic language.  Say I'm thinking of two things (name them).  How are they similar, and how are they different?  Or for older kids, how to they compare and contrast?

*Play a describing game.  Ask your child to describe something without naming it.  They can define its characteristics.  They will get better at noticing and describing them in time.

*Play a convincing game. How could you convince someone to try a new food? to read a new book, or to do something else.  What would you say?

*While reading aloud to your child, stop and think aloud.  This is an educational term that means simply to say what you are thinking as a well developed, mature reader.  You might say, "Wow, I can really see this scene in my mind.  What do you see?" or "This part of the book reminds me of another book, a movie, something that happened to me, or something happening in the world."  These are just a few techniques to start to develop reading strategies in young children.  The more they hear you do it, the more likely they will be to start doing it themselves.

Sometimes I just yearn for quiet.  My girls are constantly talking, singing, sometimes yelling, but almost always making noise.  This is actually a good thing for language development.  And it doesn't happen when the TV is on.  

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and have fun reading, talking, and listening to your little ones.  


image:  ooh_food on Flickr under Creative Commons



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