Talk to your children

One of the “critical” pre-literacy skills is vocabulary. The broader a preschooler’s vocabulary is, the easier it will be for that child to understand the sentences he/she will eventually be asked to read. A broad vocabulary provides context and helps us decipher the meaning of statements, even if we don’t know the meaning of every word we hear or read.

For example, “It was a perfectly clear day. The cerulean color of sky reflected from the glass skyscraper.”

In the example, the context of a clear day sets-up the understanding of the word “cerulean”. The word for a certain hue of blue, cerulean is a word we may not have had in our vocabulary. With the context established by the other words, we can figure out the meaning of the unique word in this sentence. This example shows that vocabulary¬†really does matter!

In a recent editorial “Children need lots of words From day one” (by Jackson, The Boston Globe Oct 26, `13 reprinted in The Plain Dealer Oct 28, `13) the issue of achievement gap is raised once again. Jackson points out research results that demonstrate that children who have small vocabularies often struggle when learning to read. Later in life these children will continue to have issues with reading comprehension.

Research has also shown that there are several “critical” pre-literacy skills. Vocabulary is just one of these. Two other skills complement vocabulary for children learning to read. These include phonological awareness, and print awareness. In very simple terms, phonological awareness is the understanding of the sounds that make-up words; alphabet/letter sounds are part of this awareness. Print awareness is the understanding of the relationship between symbols (written letters) and sounds. When letters are written in certain order, they make words. When words are written in certain order they make sentences…. and so on.

As Jackson implies, improving literacy is the responsibility of adults involved in the lives of children; not just teachers. If we can create a culture where children gain critical pre-literacy skills, the cerulean sky will be the only limit to what they can do.

Talk, Sing, Read, Play. Every Child. Every Family. Every Day!

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