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Thu, 04 February 2016
TALK. How chatting builds literacy.

Hel-lo. School is back, work is back and we are starting to get back to our routines, or so I thought.  Haha, not to be this week for me it turns out. This week my youngest has been sick. Not exactly ‘stay home in bed sick’ but really not well enough to be at childcare.  So we had a couple of days at home to get over the bugs.  One of those days I had some jobs that just had to be done so off we went to the mall for a quick scoot around to get them done.

Normally being 3 going on 4 years, we are in that interesting phase of her walking or pushing the trolley herself.  But this week, not being well, she decided to go in the pram which has been largely unused this year.  Aside from the relative speed and simplicity of getting my jobs done, it took me back to the days when I used to wheel her round the shopping centre chatting to her and engaging her in conversation with me before she could actually talk.

I can still remember one day being stopped by a shop assistant who couldn’t understand why I was talking to my youngest as if she could talk back.  She honestly thought it was a really odd thing.  I don’t know if she didn’t have children, or what her experience of early conversations was?

I guess I have always made it a habit to chat to my kids during the day.  I point things out as we walk past them, I ask them questions I know they can’t answer (What shall we have for dinner? Would that t-shirt look good on me?).  I don’t actually do it for any specific educational benefit more because it helps me not to go completely stir crazy when I am home alone with them all day, seems to distract them when we are out, and also because they seem to like it.

But there are also educational benefits of talking with and to your children well before they can talk back; it helps them to learn the rhythms of language and conversation and sets them up for when they do start to learn to talk, it helps them learn vocabulary, and of course they love to have that interaction too.  Researchers have found a direct correlation between the number of words children heard before they were 3 and their achievement in school.   One of the reasons for this is researchers believe that developing a child’s oral language skills is a necessary precursor to developing their reading and writing ability.  In their research it was found that different groups of children heard up to 30 million more words than other children before the age of 3.  That’s a lot of talking!

What do you do? Are you a chatter like me? How do you interact with your baby or toddler?

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