(and don’t worry, they are free!)
Turn on the radio, TV, read a mom’s blog and you are inundated with the latest “must haves” for young children…everything from the right Easter dress to the newest toy or video games. While all of these things are nice, let’s be honest, they are wants not needs. Maslow gave us helpful perspective on what are truly needs and when you look at his hierarchy you will see important things like safety, love, esteem (Maslow, 1943). Ask any current early childhood teacher about this list and she will most likely agree that these are a good start, but if she understands learning and development she will suggest there are two things missing. Every young child needs two important things that every teacher and parent can provide: talking and exposure to/ reading books.
There are important language development conditions that can be promoted by talking and reading (Dickinson et al., 2012). One condition emphasizes that children need to hear a plethora of words daily (Lowry, n.d.). It is necessary for a child to have a vocabulary of around 5000 words when they enter school if they want to stay on track developmentally (Dickinson et al., 2012). When calculated out, this calls for children to absorb 3.5 new words each day, from their first birthday to their fifth birthday.
Not only is quantity of vocabulary significant, but also quality. Developing brains need to “hear” words, new basic or social vocabulary such as “”enjoy”, “finish” and “thankful”, words that fill everyday conversation, Also necessary is exposure to vocabulary that is more academic, such as “frightened”, “masterpiece”, or “refrigerator”. This is where the important role of books is utilized. Books expose children to familiar and unfamiliar words, and present words in multiple sentence styles (Dickinson et al., 2012). These two characteristics lead to a deeper comprehension or understanding of the word’s meaning and usage. This intense cognitive work is a need for young brains and sets the stage for the kind of language foundation that can lead to school and learning success.
The brain is developing at a rapid rate in the early years of a child.
Every time a baby hears speech, the brain is learning the rules of language that generalize, later, to reading. Even a simple nursery rhyme can help a baby’s brain begin to make sound differentiations and create phonemic awareness, an essential building block for reading readiness. By the time a child is ready to read effectively, the brain has done a lot of work coordinating sounds to language, and is fully prepared to coordinate language to reading, and reading to comprehension (Burns, 2012).
Learning language is dependent on interactions with caring language users, such as parents and teachers; it is social in nature, begins at birth and continues throughout life. Language development is complex due to its dependence on the four domains: linguistic, social, emotional, and cognitive (Toevs, 2014a). The integration of these four domains results in varied development time as the brain develops with specific regions or areas of the brain that are activated during language learning. As parents talk, sing, and read to children, the children’s brain cells are “turned on” (U.S. Department of Education, 1999). The temporal lobe affects a child’s phonological awareness and ability to interpret sounds. The frontal lobe controls speech production, fluency, grammar, and comprehension. The angular and supramarginal gyrus function as conductors, allowing the brain to execute the action of reading (Burns, 2012).
All of this due to two very accessible “tools” every teacher and parent can utilize, reading and talking. Talking about the mail that came today, events at work, stories from childhood, or what’s needed at the grocery store are all important, and free, learning tools. Public libraries still issue free library cards and allow patrons to borrow up to 6 or more books per card. Absolutely free. I just took our 9 year old twins to the library for some great books to have around this week during spring break. This morning we curled up on the bed and read and laughed to Click Clack Moo Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin and enjoyed the beautiful story and illustrations by Jan Brett in The Easter Egg. Even at 9 they both love being read to, and I know they are picking up some new vocabulary and writing examples that will benefit their own writing in school. We talked about the illustrations and tried out some of the vocabulary after reading and then got our stack ready for reading tonight before bed. First on the pile is another wonderful book borrowed from the library, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
Every parent wants her child to be healthy, grow and learn. Teachers want the same for their students. Talking and reading are important needs that make these dreams reality. “The opportunity for creating the foundation for reading begins in the earliest years. Moreover, many pediatricians now believe that a child who has never held a book or listened to a story is not a fully healthy child” (Klass, 1998).
By Dr. Margo Turner with Elise Toevs
Burns, M. (2012, March 15). The Reading Brain: How Your Brain Helps You Read, and Why it Matters. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www.scilearn.com/blog/the-reading-brain
Dickinson, D. K., Griffith, J. A., Michnick Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012). How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World. Child Development Research, vol. 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/cdr/2012/602807/cta/.
Lowry, L. (n.d.). Promoting Language with Books. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Promoting-Language-with-Books.aspx
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.
Toevs, E. (2014a). ED-3263-01 Fndtns ECE & P-Schl. Personal Collection of G. Mayhew, John Brown University, Siloam Springs AR.
US Department of Education: Start Early, Finish Strong: How to Help Every Child Become a Reader – Raising Readers. (1999, January 1). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from https://www2.ed.gov/pubs/startearly/ch_1.html