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'Baby talk' is literacy formation

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 11:11 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 12, 2013 11:12 a.m. CDT

Surround infants with happy language and you enjoy a generally happy baby.  Baby literacy includes interaction through talking, playing word games, reciting nursery rhymes, telling stories, doing basically anything with language.  It's not a formal training program, but taking advantage of little opportunities. This gives you a reason to talk to that cute baby and say, "I'm building her literacy." You really are.  Babies love to imitate, and the more human words they hear, and the more variety of voices they hear, the more they are exposed to word formation.  Before we can read we must hear the sounds, learn to distinguish them, and be able to repeat them.  Eventually, we can form them into words.  All of this is not baby talk.  It is literacy formation.

   Children learn to listen by hearing someone talk to them. By listening children learn to be quiet and think about the meaning of what is said.  By listening he/she learns how to speak, how to put excitement in his voice, how to anticipate, and gradually realize the rewards of waiting, plus much more.  This means that friends, relatives, strangers in the grocery store, etc. all help children to enjoy words and to realize they send a message.  This literacy leads to print literacy.

   Reading to children helps them discover how a story starts and how it ends.  You may not think about it, but wouldn't it be confusing if you couldn't tell the difference between conversation and story beginnings and endings.  After all, how do you know when your friend is telling a "fish" story?  The wonderful part about reading to young children is you can read and reread the book, and they love it.  Granted you can't keep their attention for a long period of time, but you can enjoy putting silly expressions in your reading, and children respond. At the same time you are influencing their potential reading ability.  See how simple it is to promote literacy in our nation one child at a time.

   You get a pretty, complete package when a child enters school.  They have pretty much decided what adults are generally like, what their environment will give them and that they are separate from others and from their environment. They consciously and unconsciously watch how people relate to each other, whether they talk or listen, whether they share hopes, frustrations, the good and the bad.  They already know pretty much how important they are to the adults surrounding them and whether they have help or hindrance from them.  They know whether they need to demand attention or if it is given freely, which enables them to give attention to others.

   Children need time alone with an adult to set goals, enjoy activities, and make a lifetime bond. Answer children’s questions about books and print simply. Don't drown them with information, but quench their thirst. Their questions are serious, but be sure not to overload them with answers.  Often a simple answer will propel them to seek more information later.  Also, if she gets her need for information filled, then she'll be more willing to branch out in other areas.  Literacy growth comes from engaging in various different experiences, so create experiences.

   What skills does your child learn while you are having fun and relating to your child: he learns the proper way to handle a book such as when a book is right side up, or where a story begins and where it ends, and that those lines add meaning to the picture. Even a six-month-old who is regularly read to begins to change the book to right side up if it is handed to him upside down.

   Reading to a child gives the child experiences that later relate to the written word.  It encourages ability to discriminate sounds and visual details.   Reading different amounts of time to a child helps the child focus his/her attention for longer periods.  Reading stories while the child looks at the pictures develops a "story sense".  It also teaches sequence and organization; these skills alone help us in our daily world. 

  As the child grows encourage the child to point out interesting things as you read.  Be willing to stop and discuss. Allow your child to accumulate extensive experiences with items such as picture books, crayons, paper, scissors, and watercolor brushes.  Communication is an integral part of literacy and in all relationships is the key to problem solving. For the child communication is the key to the development of a healthy set of self-beliefs. Children decide first who they are through who you think they are.  Literacy helps them expand their concepts. Language is an ongoing process, an exciting one that leads to literacy. Keep interacting with those precious babies in your life. Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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