Talking to Babies to Promote Early Literacy
Talking to infants and toddlers is a good way to prepare them for later success in reading.
- Begin talking and singing to your child from birth. Your baby loves hearing your voice. Play peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake. Recite nursery rhymes or other verses that have strong rhythms and repeated sounds. Sing lullabies and other songs.
- Let your baby know that you hear her babbles, coos, and gurgles. Repeat the sounds she makes. Smile back. When you respond to her sounds, she learns that what she "says" means something and is important to you. Sometimes, you can supply the language for her.
When your baby stretches her arm toward her bottle and says "ga-ga-ga," say, "Oh, you're ready for some milk? Here's your milk. Isn't it good?"
- Play simple touching and talking games together. These games help a child learn what different parts of the body are called.
Ask "Where are your toes?" Then touch your child's toes and say, "Here are your toes!" Repeat several times, then switch to fingers or ears or eyes or nose.
- Point to familiar objects and name them. When a child hears an object called the same name over and over, he learns to connect the spoken word with its meaning.
"Here's your blanket. Your favorite blanket. What a nice, soft blanket!"
- When your child begins to speak, build his language.
A child starts talking by using single words and short sentences. You can help by filling in missing words and using complete sentences.
Parent: "Oh, you want another cookie? Ok, you can have just one more."
Child: "Go car."
Parent: "Yes, we're all going to go in the car. But first, you have to put on your coat."
- Encourage your child to talk with you. Ask questions that show you are interested in what she thinks and says. Ask her to share ideas and events that are important to her. Ask her questions that require her to talk, rather than just to give yes or no answers. Listen carefully to what she says.
"What would you like to do next?"
"What do you suppose made that big noise?"
- Answer your child's questions. Listen to your child's questions and answer them patiently. Take time to explain things to him as completely as you can. Keep answering questions that your child asks again and again, because children learn from hearing things over and over.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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