In the Reading Rockets teleconference, Achieving Success in Reading, Dr. Todd Risley indicated that before the average child is 3, he or she can have heard 20 million words.
“Children of very talkative, socially interactive families have heard 35 million words addressed to them by the age of three. Children of very taciturn or non-responsive families have heard less than 10 million words addressed to them.”The degree to which children have had words addressed to them plays out in vocabulary size, with children from “taciturn, non-reactive” families at a severe disadvantage: only 500 words compared to 700 words for “average” children and 1,100 words for children from interactive families.
Adults help toddlers develop spoken language by responding to their efforts to communicate.
The teleconference includes a video of caregiver Daphne Jones conversing with 2- and 3-year-olds at a Maryland day care center. Her efforts are part of a targeted program to train parents and caregivers in ways that young children communicate, in order to boost their vocabulary and increase conversations.
Dr. Sharon Landesman Ramey observed during the webinar that books are really integrated with oral language development while at the same time books introduce children to the concept of print.
“They learn that books are filled with fun and adventure, and they are pretty, and they can be touched and, you know, all these wonderful books that have things that you can manipulate. And so, they can get turned on to books, but books are really integrated with the oral language tradition.”Dialogic reading, as described by developer Dr. Russ Whitehurst in another video, places the adult in the role of a listener, “who listens to the child, who responds to what the child says, who prompts the child to say more.” The approach has been shown, according to speaker Dr. Barbara Foorman, to benefit children’s listening comprehension and vocabulary development.
Vocabulary development is important because, as related by Dr. Julie Washington during the Reading Rockets webinar, “[T]he vocabulary that a child brings to the reading process through their oral language skills will really impact how well they do with the reading.”
Asking questions and discussing what is read builds a child’s spoken vocabulary, which in turn boosts important language skills that are brought to the reading process.
Composed for Cuesta College’s ECE 234, Children’s Literature