Verbal communication, which plays a major role in developing neuro-structures and brain connections, is a key component in the development of young children. In addition to developing their memory and broadening their attention span, language can also encourage children to interact with others and become more involved in learning activities. Daily reading, language-based play and writing can help preschoolers and elementary school children improve their speaking and listening skills, while avoiding social and emotional problems.
Importance of Language and Literacy Activities
When children start school, spoken language becomes a learning tool that facilitates social interaction and awareness, helping them gain reading, writing and listening skills that are crucial in their psychosocial development. Early language skills and pre-literacy activities are often linked to more advanced reading skills and language competencies in later schooling. As they become more proficient, children gain confidence and tend to interact better with others. They also become more invested in educational activities, learning to assign meaning to the reality surrounding them. According to the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, young children with poor speaking and listening skills, referred to as suffering from language impairment, are more likely to experience psychosocial problems. However, there are various language and literacy activities that can help preschoolers and young students avoid language impairment.
Daily reading is a good way to engage preschoolers and start building their communication skills. A teacher can routinely read stories or other children’s books out loud, allowing children to listen, react and ask questions. Preschoolers should be encouraged to participate in the reading process by describing their favorite parts of the stories or answering questions. Online literacy resources, such as the Colorado State Library literacy program, can help educators with reading activities.
By asking questions after a reading session, a teacher can encourage children to focus on the details of a story and ask questions of their own. Discussing a story can help children grasp the meaning of spoken words and verbally interact with each other. Talking about a story also allows young children to relate books to their own experiences.
Songs, poems, word games and rhyme repetitions are tools that can develop children’s language awareness from an early age. Literacy programs, such as the one at North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, recommend that teachers use books that feature language play or devise activities that encourage children to focus on the sound of language, such as games involving rhyming words and patterns. Such activities develop phonemic awareness and vocabulary structure while also enhancing memory capacity.
In the first years of school, writing is an essential learning tool that shifts children’s attention from the spoken toward the written word. Forming letters and words is a big step in the developmental process that allows students to explore a new learning environment and gain a sense of achievement. Story dictation and calligraphy are instruments that a teacher can use to build writing skills in young students. However, according to North Central Regional Educational Laboratory literacy experts, scribbling and pretend writing provide a solid foundation for the writing process and therefore should be encouraged from the pre-school years. Setting up a writing center that offers a variety of materials is a good way to engage young children and get them interested in the written aspect of communication.
Iulia Filip has been writing fiction and creative nonfiction since 2000. Her historical pieces, health and wellness articles and film & music reviews have appeared on Suite101.com. She is currently pursuing an Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Queens University (Charlotte, N.C.) while working on her first novel. Filip has recently completed her first screenplay.