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Language Development in Children (page 4)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Feb 17, 2011

Nurturing Language Development

Parents and caregivers need to remember that language in the great majority of individuals develops very efficiently. Adults should try not to focus on "problems," such as the inability to pronounce words as adults do (for example, when children pronounce r's like w's). Most children naturally outgrow such things, which are a tiny segment of the child's total repertoire of language. However, if a child appears not to hear what others say to her; if family members and those closest to her find her difficult to understand; or if she is noticeably different in her communicative abilities from those in her age range, adults may want to seek advice from specialists in children's speech, language and hearing.

Teachers can help sustain natural language development by providing environments full of language development opportunities. Here are some general guidelines for teachers, parents, and other caregivers:

Understand that every child's language or dialect is worthy of respect as a valid system for communication. It reflects the identities, values, and experiences of the child's family and community.

Treat children as if they are conversationalists, even if they are not yet talking. Children learn very early about how conversations work (taking turns, looking attentively, using facial expressions, etc.) as long as they have experiences with conversing adults.

Encourage interaction among children. Peer learning is an important part of language development, especially in mixed-age groups. Activities involving a wide range of materials should promote talk. There should be a balance between individual activities and those that nurture collaboration and discussion, such as dramatic play, block-building, book-sharing, or carpentry.

Remember that parents, caregivers, teachers, and guardians are the chief resources in language development. Children learn much from each other, but adults are the main conversationalists, questioners, listeners, responders, and sustainers of language development and growth in the child-care center or classroom. Continue to encourage interaction as children come to understand written language. Children in the primary grades can keep developing oral abilities and skills by consulting with each other, raising questions, and providing information in varied situations. Every area of the curriculum is enhanced through language, so that classrooms full of active learners are hardly ever silent.

For More Information

Brown, R. A FIRST LANGUAGE: THE EARLY STAGES. Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1973.

Cazden, C.B., ed. LANGUAGE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. Washington, DC: NAEYC, 1981.

Fletcher, P., and M. Garman, eds. LANGUAGE ACQUISITION, 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge, 1986.

Genishi, C. "Children's Language: Learning Words From Experience." YOUNG CHILDREN 44 (Nov., 1988): 16-23.

Genishi, C., and A. Haas Dyson. LANGUAGE ASSESSMENT IN THE EARLY YEARS. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1984.

Heath, S.B. WAYS WITH WORDS: LANGUAGE, LIFE, AND WORK IN COMMUNITIES AND CLASSROOMS. New York: Cambridge, 1983.

Hough, R.A., Nurss, J.R., and D. Wood. "Tell Me a Story: Making Opportunities for Elaborated Language in Early Childhood Classrooms." YOUNG CHILDREN 43 (Nov., 1987): 6-12.

Lindfors, J.W. CHILDREN'S LANGUAGE AND LEARNING, 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1987.

Wells, G. THE MEANING MAKERS: CHILDREN LEARNING LANGUAGE AND USING LANGUAGE TO LEARN. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1986.

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