Anyone who has set foot in a classroom would support the adage, “children should be seen and not heard.”
However, research is conclusive that in order for children to become readers at the desired reading level, children should both listen and talk – a lot. It turns out that in just the first year of life, children already know a lot about talking and listening in their native language. One-year-olds can recognize a variety of speech sounds, and they know which sounds make the words that are important to them.
Quickly after this recognition stage is the stage in which babies try to imitate the sounds they hear – resulting in the ‘goo-goo-ga-ga’ attempts at spoken language. Learning to imitate starts by listening to the words being spoken around them. Even ‘baby talk,’ which has pros and cons to childhood development, has merit in the annunciation of words for the benefit of the listening child. The rhythm and cadence of some baby talk can make it easier for babies to discern where one word ends and another begins.
Unfortunately, children who do not hear much talk at home, and who are not encouraged to speak, often are slower to learn to read than their chattier counterparts. This doesn’t just lead us to encourage parents to read to their children more. Just having normal conversations around young children can be a great help to their overall reading abilities.
The earlier we set children up with listening and speaking skills, the better off they’ll be. Just keep that in mind the next time you’re in a room full of screaming children!