Brain development experts tell us that nearly 90% of a child’s brain develops within the first three years of life.  In fact, according to Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University, babies are explorers and discoverers looking for patterns in everything they see and making connections in order to understand meaning.

Arizona First Things First promotes early literacy by funding Reach Out and Read programs throughout the state.  Reach Out and Read serves children in more than 185 locations across the state, reaching more than 117,000 children each year.  The program utilizes a parent and child’s regular visits with pediatricians to reinforce the importance of reading together and provides books to families to encourage them to read together.    The program begins at the child’s 6-month checkup and continues through age five.

Reach out and Read helps families who are living in poverty or where parents don’t speak English, because their children are much less likely to be read to regularly.  As a result, the children arrive in kindergarten already behind in language development.

In addition to providing language and literacy skills, reading is an activity that increases bonding between parent and child.  Setting aside one-on-one time to read together creates an opportunity for children and parents to connect over a shared experience and focused time together without distractions, reinforcing children feeling safe, secure and loved.

There are many things parents can do to ensure early language and literacy skill development for their young child.  For example:

  1. Talk to babies and exchange sounds, gestures and expressions to help lay the groundwork for conversation.
  2. Once children begin talking, allow them time to formulate what they want to say.  Waiting for them to formulate thoughts and answer questions helps with language growth.
  3. To engage your baby’s attention, be lively and vary the tone and pitch of your voice.
  4. Don’t underestimate your baby’s grasp of what you are saying.  Long before they can respond with words, babies and toddlers can understand a lot of what is being said.
  5. Children are more likely to engage in conversation if it is something that interests them or something that they have experienced.
  6. Encourage siblings and playmates to ask each other questions and to have conversations.  Through this exchange, children are practicing literacy skills and building relationships.

Or more information about how to help your child with language development, click here.

Sources: – “Let’s Talk About It:  Building Language and Literacy Skills