NDSU Extension - Sargent County

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Talk a Lot, but not Too Much

Talk a Lot, but not Too Much  04/20/18Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write.  It is widely known and recognized as being a key to success in school and life.                              

The roots or foundations of literacy lie in oral (spoken) language and early reading experiences.  Research by the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) has shown that oral language proficiency is an important predictor of later reading success.  Other researchers have found that the amount of talking infants, toddlers, and young children hear AND respond to is associated with vocabulary development and other language skills. 

The opportunity to establish and build these foundations of literacy are afforded primarily to parents.  They are the ones most likely to have the desire, make the opportunities, and take the time to be talking and reading with their children.

Talking with children from birth, and even before, is essential.  The conversation can be about a book you are reading or whatever is in or happening in your environment.  “Comments” can be used to start the conversation. 

Comments may describe what your infant or child is doing.  For example, “You are stretching so big,” or “You are taking the blocks out of the box.”  Comments may also describe what you are doing.  For example, “I am putting lotion on your arms,” or “I am building a tower with the green blocks.”

Lastly, comments may describe an object, person, or something that is happening in your immediate surroundings.  For example, “The sun is shining brightly,” or “Robins are hopping on the grass,” or “This block is cracked.”

Getting started talking with babies sometimes feel funny, weird, or unnatural, especially to new, first-time parents.  Be persistent.  One way to get comfortable at it is to pretend you are talking on your phone with a friend, or being a radio/TV reporter.  Let the play-by-play and narration begin!  Start telling that imaginary friend or imaginary radio/TV audience what your child is doing, or what you are doing or noticing, or what is happening. 

Having a conversation WITH your infant or child takes more than just talking TO him.  Remember it is his hearing AND responding that is important.  Allow at least 5 seconds for your infant or child to respond to your comment.  Infants will respond not with words, but with eye contact, a gaze, a smile, or an imitation of your facial expression.  As they grow and develop, their responses may include reaching out, pointing, clapping, or words.  This give and take, this back and forth, this “turn-taking” of one person talking while the other person listens, is laying a foundation for conversation and communication.  Enjoy it and delight in it!

When your baby looks away or disengages from your back and forth exchange, he may be telling you he’s had enough, he’s tired of it, or he needs a break.  Read his cues and respect what he is trying to tell you by taking a break.  To attempt to continue may cause him to become overstimulated and both of you to become frustrated. 

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/child-boy-toddler-preschooler-play-1522870/ (downloaded 4/24/18)

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