Posted on 03/21/2019 at 08:02 AM by Blog Experts

How rich are your conversations with your preschoolers?  Is most of what you say to them things like “Put your coat on”, “Eat your breakfast” or “What color is this?”  Or do you focus more on starting richer conversations with questions like “What do you think the next phase of building that house will be?”, “What do you notice is changing with these flowers?” or “What do you think that word that starts with C on this restaurant is?”  It likely won’t lead to a rich conversation if what we say is a demand or if it starts with a question that has one right answer.  And it won’t be a rich conversation unless it has at least 4 exchanges (you talk, child talks, you talk, child talks, you talk, child talks, you talk, child talks) and includes challenging, yet understandable, vocabulary.

Young children having plenty of rich conversations (also referred to as strong oral language) are children who likely will have future reading and writing success.  Think, for example, of a child being involved with an adult in an ongoing conversation about a house that is being built.  Not only does that child hear how language (words, sentence structure, paragraphs, punctuation, etc.) works, but he also gets that reinforced by learning to speak it.  When that child gets introduced to writing structures later on, having that oral language background will help him with fluency and comprehension.  Also, if those conversations include words like construction, joist, column, concrete, gable, etc. think about when that child first runs into those words in written form, how decoding and understanding can be enhanced just by having had the previous oral exposure to those words.  And what’s really amazing is that any connection (direct or indirect) a child makes between a past oral conversation to a specific written encounter helps for all other written encounters.  No matter what, richer conversations leads to ease with reading and writing.  Strong oral language is a prerequisite for strong reading and writing skills.

So talk, talk, talk with your young children and introduce them to new words, always remembering that a child learns how to use language by using it, not by watching it being used on a screen.

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