I’ve been reviewing various authoritative sources about “ages and stages” for children. Most parents at some point encounter such guidelines and then consider what they’re doing wrong or right for their young children. Every area of language development from Asking questions to delivering Zingers are at some point a concern for parents, especially new parents.
Almost without exception, parents are completely dedicated to raising happy and healthy kids. Yet from food to friends and family, they have questions, like:
If our child doesn’t ___ yet, is she still okay?
If my little guy hasn’t learned to ___ by now, should I be worried?
Did your child ever ___? What did you do?
I assert that what we attend to in our children is where we put our energies, therefore, I’m lobbying for parents and teachers to focus primarily upon language and literacy development. I believe these are absolutely the very most important issues (complementing their physical and mental health) of a child’s early development. Language and the ability to fully understand and be completely understood crosses into every corner of life, from beginning to end.
Children generally learn language very quickly IF they are consistently talked to as babies, then talked with as toddlers, and thoughtfully listened to and truly taken seriously as they continue to grow older. The fashionable attention to a “word gap” (maximizing how many words kids hear) must be complemented with a similar focus on attending to the number of words children say, both to older kids and to adults, who take the time to hear from them in substantive conversations.
Children who learn that they can get what they need or want by asking for it in a way that others can easily understand, and who respond appropriately to what others are requesting will develop powerfully in their home language(s).
Reading and conversation about shared books offer an ongoing indication of language status. Conversation also is the primary driver of language growth, guiding kids’ mastery and use of their language(s) patterns and conventions. Conversation can be casual or focused on something important, but children need to hear us converse and to be invited to join conversations in whatever way they can manage and enjoy.
Listening to children validates their personal importance and their potential contributions to any endeavor. Inviting them to share in a conversation signals to children that “You are somebody! What you think and say matters.”
Conversation, and soon reading and literacy, establish the single most powerful foundation for success in school and life. Using their language skills, youngsters can get needed information or guidance from individuals and independently for life regarding what they want or need.
So the question to parents is: “Have you read and then discussed anything with your child today?”