Children who hear lots of language, learn lots of language. Talking is the foundation for reading, writing and communicating. When kids grow up in homes with parents who talk to them and encourage them to talk, they know more words and understand more words, which makes it easier for them to learn to read. Children who are spoken to less, and read to less, often know fewer words and understand fewer words. That makes it harder for them to learn to read.
How you interact with your child in their earliest years has a big impact on your child's vocabulary. The sheer number of words heard, and the positive quality of those words, affects a child’s success in school. The achievement gap starts with the “language gap.” Talking positively and often with your child will make your child a better reader. Children need to participate in many conversations, too, in order to figure out how language works.
Naturally, babies can vocalize immediately. Even the earliest smiles and cries are social gestures that convey the need to connect with you. Baby’s brain is highly attuned to faces, so bring your face close to his, catch his gaze and speak softly. He may imitate your vowel sounds. Your child learns how to talk through social interactions with you.
Beginning at birth, talk with your baby about what you are doing. “OK, I’m going to put these warm fuzzy socks on your feet because it feels chilly in here.” It may seem silly at first, but telling children what you are doing helps them put words with objects and activities. Remember that talking can be many things. Talking can include singing, or nursery rhymes, or even playing with sounds. Play with the sounds in children's names (suzie, woozy, moozy) or just have fun making funny noises by changing the shape of your mouth or tone of your voice. Children who play with the sounds of words (language) learn to read more easily.
Talk and sing while cleaning up, on walks, in the car, or anywhere! When your child begins to talk, don't feel the need to correct "mistakes." If you model correct language, your child will learn from you. For instance, if your child says, "I goed to the store with Daddy," you could reply, "You went to the store? What did you get there?"
Talk with your children about things they are familiar with—what they ate for breakfast, what they did yesterday, what they made with the playdough, etc. Talk and sing everywhere you go.