Updated: Feb 19, 2020
Literacy is my favorite topic, tool, and strategy in teaching speech and language development. Early literacy exposure, in my opinion and the opinion of many researchers, is the BEST way to help a young learner develop speech and language. Here are the reasons why:
It is proven by research that the more a child is around books, magazines and generally written materials (think books on your nightstand, witnessing you reading the newspaper, having bookshelves around the house that are accessible to the child's view and/or reach, and having book time be a part of routine), the better they will do in school. There may be confounding factors in this relationship, such as education level of the family members or accessibility to education; however, I will take this tidbit and put books wherever my children can reach them! We also try to have a ritual of one to three books every night. The time we put in reading with my eldest child (now 9) is serving us well now. He often leads book time for my 6- and 2-year-old while we get ready for bed and clean up the house. Investment... meet reward!
Scripts are the best way for children to learn new words. Scripts are like script lines we would use to perform in a play. This is kind of what we do when we do things like get ready for school, have our bedtime routine, get ready for dinner, and have naptime. The child has their role and we have our role as parents/caretakers. We, the adults, typically use the same words or phrases every time we perform these "acts." This repetition of the same words in the same sequence in the same context every "act" is like practice for our little ones. The same is true for books. When we get in a routine of reading books and our children find their favorites, they typically request the same book over and over again. I end up reading the same book three times in one night. But each time I read the book, my child picks up a little more. She memorizes a little more. I know this to be true because some books she can read to me verbatim. Others she has to fill in the gaps with imaginary lines less and less with each repeated read.
3. Quantity of Input = Quality of Output
The more you read to your child, the more words they hear in various contexts. The more ways in which they hear words increases how they understand things like multiple meaning words (words that have two or more separate meanings, such as "bowl" as something you eat out of and "bowl" at the bowling alley), idioms (words that mean something different than what they say, such as "break a leg" to mean "good luck."), how to string words together correctly (grammar), meanings of words (lexicon), and also how things work in our big world. Baby and toddler books, especially, teach emotions, empathy, and appropriate/inappropriate social interactions (pragmatics). Books are RICH!
4. Early Reading = Earlier Reading for Understanding
There comes a point in a child's early school years where she is expected to transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." This is a big transition because coursework gets a lot more complex. If your child is still learning to read while other children in his class are moving to the reading to learn model, you may find that he becomes more and more behind in his school work. Falling behind is not fun for the child or the parent. And it can happen for any number of reasons. But early reading to your child is a leg-up that you can give him in small increments to be prepared for this transition to reading for understanding.
5. Quality of Input = Quality of Sounds
This tip has to do with our child's speech sounds. The more he hears you talking and using words in a proper form (which we typically use while reading books because that is how they are written usually), the more accurate and acute his understanding of sounds will become. Phonological awareness is the foundation of sound discreteness and understanding that changing one sound can change the whole meaning of a word.
If you have questions about literacy and your child, feel free to contact Lauren Tandy, M.S., CCC-SLP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This is not an exhaustive list of how literacy is a great thing. This list is meant to give you a place and reason to start interacting with your child through books for the betterment of his/her understanding and function within our world. Pick books you or your child finds fun and enjoy the story.