The relationship between talking and learning is complex. Let’s look briefly at vocabulary.
A recent article in The Economist states that four year olds in American households in which both parents hold degrees have heard 32 million more words than children whose parents are dependent on social security payments. Is this important? Many research studies say yes.
- Preschool vocabulary is linked with later success in learning to read and with overall achievement in school
- A wide vocabulary enables children to understand more of what they hear and to increase their store of knowledge
- Verbal communication between adults and children and between peers is more satisfying, deeper, wider-ranging and more precise when a wide range of words is accessible.
Obviously, the best way to build vocabulary is to talk with children. However, size of vocabulary is only one part of the picture. Also important is what words are used in which situations, and what topics are discussed.
Families and educators help children build their vocabulary when they:
- Learn and use a few new words every week. Both adults and children need a good and ever-expanding resource bank of words to draw upon
- Talk with children about the past and future as well as the present, and about imaginary as well as real situations
- Use words that encourage problem-solving and hypothesising, for example, “I wonder if/how…”
It also helps not to:
- Talk too much yourself
- Make conversations into interrogations
- Forget to enjoy words and word play such as rhyme and alliteration. If you enjoy word play, children are likely to enjoy it as well.