The Power of Literacy – Speaking
Column by Tutu and Me
Literacy is the ability to communicate by listening, speaking, reading and writing in a language. It is an internal – listening and reading – and an external – speaking and writing – process.
Speaking is the ability to orally communicate with other human beings. Babies spend the first three years of their lives learning to successfully speak their native language. They learn to speak by listening and practicing words. If a child lives in an environment where their mother and other adults give them names for people, places, objects and situations, that child will have acquired a speaking vocabulary of three to four thousand words by the age of three. This speaking vocabulary is crucial to future reading and writing success.
At Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, children are introduced to exciting activities designed to promote language and learning: they listen to and sing songs, they listen to and repeat words from favorite books and they are asked questions which require answers, such as “How old are you?”
Try This at Home:
• Make sure that your child can say their name, and later the names of the rest of the family members in the household.
• Help your child learn the names of things. Start in one room in your house, making sure that your child knows the names for all objects and their uses, (such as “refrigerator”, “It is for keeping food cold”).
• Listen to your child. When they talk about what something does instead of its name (e.g., “That’s the thing for pouring juice.”), give your keiki the name for it. (e.g., “It’s called a pitcher. Can you say pitcher?”)
• Ask questions that require more than one word answers, such as “How do you get to Walmart from your house?” or, “Why do you think the plant grew?” Give your child ample time to answer questions, at least ten seconds.
• Speak to your keiki in complete sentences. We are their models.
• Talk story with your child while riding in the car, while waiting in the doctor’s office, while in the restaurant, etc.
• If possible, expose your child to other languages at a very young age.
• Ask keiki to repeat directions and rules to make sure that they understand.
• It is a very good sign if your child wants to hear the same book read over and over. Not only are they memorizing the story, but they are programming the structure and meaning of the language into their brain!
• Make sure that your keiki learns to use words to express wants, needs and feelings, even before they can talk. Say to baby, “Oh I know what you want. You want milk, yes?”
Remember – a large and extensive speaking vocabulary is a critical predictor of future reading and writing success for children.