Before children learn to read and write, there is a crucial element that they have to learn…oral (or sign) language. The more words they are exposed to, the bigger their vocabulary and better their mastery of a particular language. As such, it is important for young children to practice their listening skills, their ability to express their thoughts, ideas and feelings, taking turns to speak and how to articulate their words clearly. These are some of the things that parents can do at home to support their children’s attempts at learning to speak well:
1) Try to model good phrase structure (when speaking to younger children) and sentence structure (for older children). It will be quite a challenge for children to learn to construct their sentences well if their parents ‘baby talk’ all the time.
2) Maintain eye-contact when speaking to your child so that they can watch how you coordinate the movements of your face, lips and tongue when you try to pronounce your words. I have seen many parents who are constantly staring at their mobile phones or computers when speaking to their children. It may be a good idea to check ourselves just to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of being constantly distracted when our children speak to us.
3) Read to your child as much as possible. If you don’t have a book in hand, make up a story as you go along or sing nursery rhymes. These are great activities which helps the child to increase their vocabulary as well as their confidence when their familiarity for a song or story develops. Remember: the bigger their vocabulary, the easier it would be for them to learn to read and write!