“Communicating through language is the crowning achievement of the human species.” Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D. and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D.
We are excited to share with you the first professional reading in our three part series, “What is SLC Reading This Summer?” If you are familiar with our work, you know that we spend a large portion of our time talking with teachers about the importance of oral language in a young child’s development. Lev Vgotsky, a prominent early childhood theorist, stated that oral language is the “universal tool.” He believed that language is a “primary mental tool because it facilitates the acquisition of other tools and is used for many mental functions.” Thus, language is the basis of all learning for humans (“Tools of the Mind,” p. 18). We agree with Vgotsky and the authors of our first featured text, “How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life,” that oral language is foundational in early literacy development.
Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, well-respected researchers and professors, wrote “How Babies Talk” in an effort to help parents, caregivers and teachers understand not only the importance of language development of children in the womb to age three, but also to help them understand exactly what a child knows how to develop their oral language skills at every stage. As the authors say, “We begin with the fetus who is listening in on our conversations and then turn to the newborn who, in his own subtle way, is already taking part in these conversations. We will look at the four to eight month old statistician who cannot say a word, but who accurately analyzes our speech for common sounds and patterns. Then it’s off to the nine to twelve month old who charms us with her points, her demands and her questions – all without saying a word. Eventually, we work our way up to the knowledgeable three year old who talks in full paragraphs, rarely stopping for a breath.” (“How Babies Talk,” p. 4)
The book is organized for easy reading with chapters organized by the age of the child. Each chapter is further divided into two large sections: “Language Milestones,” which details for the reader what children know about language at each age, and “Scientific Sleuthing Pays Off,” which explains how scientific findings can be used to enrich interactions with children. Best of all, there is a third, smaller section interspersed throughout each chapter called, “Try This” with specific activities or interactions for parents, caregivers or teachers to try with children to boost their language. It doesn’t get much better than this: explanations of what children know at each age, why we know they know it and how to enhance it!
“How Babies Talk” is absolutely a text we’re putting on our “favorites” shelf of our professional development library! Get a copy from our Amazon link above, read it, and let us know what you think.
Authored by Jordan Khadam-Hir, Rice University School Literacy & Culture