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Improving Your Child's Language and Literacy Skills

Improving Your Child’s Language and Literacy Skills

Few things are as critical to a child’s educational success as a firm grasp on language and literacy skills. The ability to communicate effectively crosses over into every area of study your child will embark upon in their lifetime. This fact alone makes these skills crucial to their future ability to grasp complex subjects.

The Importance of Language and Literacy Skills

Being proficient in one or more languages has unparalleled benefits that will be seen across the board in your child’s education. Since language is the basis for all teaching efforts (and also the key to communicating effectively overall), it’s understandable why it’s such an important skill to hone.

The importance of language and literacy skills go well beyond the communication aspect, however. Students who focus on deepening their language base will find themselves gaining proficiencies in their other studies as well.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), students who excel in language and literacy show:

  • Greater test scores on standard tests
  • Higher levels of focus and understanding
  • Increased ability to grasp scientific hypotheses
  • Higher ACT and SAT scores
  • Greater problem-solving capabilities

These are just a few of the ways in which language and linguistics will lend to the greater overall educational success of your child. Since language development requires children to hone their focusing skills, they will then be able to apply the same level of focus to their other studies.

Literacy Learning Techniques

Whether your child is focusing on one language or multilingual studies, they will have set coursework within their classroom. It’s certainly no surprise that teachers have lesson plans for their students, but you may be surprised to learn how much things have changed since your days in the classroom.

Evidence has shown students respond well to teaching methods that incorporate several different learning aids. Some of these include items that can be used as visual props while others could use online programs and themed learning (animal week, gardening week, etc.).

The key to language learning in the classroom, however, is a focus on interactive conversational opportunities. It’s less about learning grammar rules and more about learning to actually communicate.

“The primary purpose of language is communication – grammar is important, but there’s a bigger picture. Language is no longer seen as being learned through mechanical exercises, it’s developed through students interacting and engaging,” explains Huw Jarvis, a professor at the University of Salford’s School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science.

According to Jarvis, motivation is the most critical component to driving a student’s interest in language learning. Since students tend to learn faster through immersion in situations which require them to find ways to communicate, allowing them to choose their own medium gives way to a greater desire to learn.

Developing a Desire to Learn at Home

In order to truly give your child the full-on immersion experience, it’s critical to continue the language and literacy learning experience outside of the classroom as well. Most parents understand that a child’s educational success is a multi-faceted experience that involves both home life and school life.

So how do we go about providing our children with enriching language learning experiences at home? Engage them and motivate them – it’s as simple (or as complex) as that.

“The best method is the method you like… Languages cannot be taught, they can only be learned,” explains Language Consultant, Luca Lampariello.

Finding out what motivates your child to learn at home involves a basic trial and error process. Unless you’ve already figured out how to motivate your child (and if so, kudos!), you may need to engage in some simple activities with them to see what they like. Find out what drives them to want to learn more.

Finding Out What Motivates Your Child

One of the simplest ways you can help your child nurture a desire to learn and excel with language and literacy is by different communicative experiences at home. Talk to them. Sing to them. Create stories with them involved. Allow your child to “read” you a story by telling you what’s going on in the sequential pictures. There are endless ways to involve them in language learning at home.

The National Center on Improving Literacy explains that by simple daily communication efforts at home, parents can help their child improve their language learning immensely. Daily communications can be as simple as a pointed discussion about their day (asking specific questions to get them to think and give detailed answers), or as thorough as labeling items at home for a language visual.

“Engage in joint reading, drawing, singing, storytelling, reciting, game playing, and rhyming. When joint reading, you and your child take turns reading parts of a book. When reading, ask her to connect the story… Give positive feedback and ask open-ended questions during joint reading to boost her interest and critical thinking skills.” – ImprovingLiteracy.org

By including daily language activities such as reading and storytelling, you’ll gain insight into what interests your child the most. Find stories that inspire them and pique their curiosity – this will help give them a stronger drive to learn more. Asking pointed questions on the topic will encourage them to focus on the task and go deeper for a greater understanding. No matter the topic, that will give way to an overall improved language and literacy experience.

A More Complete Learning Experience

If you want to apply a more direct learning approach at home, speak with your child’s teacher to discuss what methods are utilized in the classroom. Educators are usually more than willing to speak with parents about their teaching methods and how they can be enhanced at home.

You can also take a closer look in their bookbags to gain some insight into what they’re focusing on in the classroom. If you see they have a themed week at school, try continuing the theme at home. As examples, if they have a color theme for a week, use corresponding color foods in dinner plans, colored bath water, or planned outfits for school to bring up topics later.

They key to continuing language and literacy learning at home is to simply communicate. Communicate with your children about their days or share a good story with them. Communicate with their teachers to learn any tips or subject ideas to coordinate home learning themes and techniques with classroom learning. Above all, the most important thing you can do to help your child develop their language skills is to continue to engage them in communication. Talk with your kids and talk often – it’s that simple!

Language Spotlight Series: Spanish - Giving Your Child a Career Advantage

Language Spotlight Series: Spanish – Giving Your Child a Career Advantage

More and more evidence has come to light in recent years in support of adding a second (or third) language to your child’s curriculum. While many parents may be apprehensive about introducing additional language learning to their child at a young age, research has shown early education is a fantastic time to begin bilingual teaching.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, studies have shown that the most important learning process of early education involves language and literacy development. These two skills, which are intertwined, form the basic foundation for all other learning processes your child will encounter the rest of their lives.

“The primary goal of early schooling is to establish the foundational skills upon which children will build their educational futures. The most important of these abilities are the language and literacy competence.” – The U.S. National Library of Medicine.

It goes without saying then, that a focus on language learning is the key to the best academic potential for children. In fact, adding dual language learning to their academia during early education years, serves to boost their comprehension skills even further, according to recent research by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

As the NIH reports, the Lindholm-Leary study, conducted in 2014, showed “…children in the bilingual program outperform(ed) the English-only instruction group in both English and Spanish test scores by the end of second grade.”

The research results leave us with compelling evidence in support of introducing bilingual learning at a young age. Which in turn, begs the question, “how do we choose which language is best?” Our Language Spotlight Series is going to take a look at two of the top ranked languages chosen for children around the world: Spanish and French. This month we will be focusing our articles on discovering the benefits of each language option, beginning with Spanish.

Spotlight on Spanish

According to international census results, conducted by Swedish educational group, Nationalencyklopedin.com, in 2010 there were 405 million Spanish speakers throughout the world. These census results showed there are nearly 50 million more people globally who speak Spanish than there are who speak English – and that was 9 years ago. The numbers are only increasing with each year.

What does this mean? Well, to put it simply, there are more opportunities for your child if they speak Spanish than there are if they speak English. Imagine the possibilities if they were bilingual and able to speak both.

“In the United States alone there are over 50 million people who speak Spanish as their native or second language. So even if you don’t fancy yourself a globetrotter, Spanish is probably the most useful language to learn…” – Babbel.com.

If you base your decision on numbers, Spanish is a likely front-runner for bilingual education options for your child, but it’s so much more than just a popular choice. Here are five of the top benefits to consider when choosing Spanish as a second language for your child’s early educational curriculum:

1 – Opportunities

When you choose a language that is the second most spoken language across the globe, you’re choosing so much more than just a language voted most likely to succeed or most popular in the annual polls. You’re choosing opportunities for your child.

With so many people speaking Spanish – both in the United States and around the world – learning the more common language seems a no-brainer. By learning to communicate with a larger base of the global population, you will be giving your child the tools to close gaps between cultures and open up lines of communication with endless individuals and multi-lingual opportunities.

“Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world. The opportunities for Spanish speakers across the globe are endless!” – Leapfrog.com.

2 – Stronger Linguistic Core

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages to consider when signing your child up for Spanish language instruction, lies in the foundational work. While you may be afraid your child will be confused by using multiple languages in the early years, the contrary is actually true – particularly when learning Spanish.

English and Spanish share many commonalities in their core linguistics. In fact, both have strong Latin roots and have multiple words that are so similar they are basically the same (or literally, are the same) – and easily understood.

“Studying Spanish increases children’s understanding of the English language and how different languages evolve, which can also help with learning English vocabulary.” – Leapfrog.com.

Going back to the study findings listed above from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, language and linguistic learning is the most critical piece of your child’s early education. By extension then, choosing a course of study that helps boost your child’s ability to understand and develop these foundational linguistic skills makes perfect sense.

3 – Ease of Understanding

In a related benefit, since Spanish and English share so many commonalities, it also makes it a fairly simple language for young minds to pick up. There are literally thousands of words in the Spanish language that share a base with English words. Actually, there are several thousand that share an exact same spelling and meaning in both languages.

Words like capital, editorial, federal, hospital, manual, normal, and thousands more share the same meaning and spelling, just to give an example. English and Spanish are highly relatable and easily understood, so it goes without saying that the earlier you begin bilingual studies, the easier it is to pick up. With so many similarities, children will be able to pick up Spanish as a second language in no time.

4 – Breaking Barriers

Because learning a second language is more than just opening opportunities, it’s important to consider the bilateral advantages. While your child will certainly be picking up fantastic core linguistic lessons and opening doors to communicating with a larger portion of the global population, there is more to the picture.

According to Babbel Magazine, there are actually more Spanish speaking individuals in the United States than there are in Spain. The Spanish-speaking population in the United States is second in size only to that of Mexico – giving an even greater opportunity for immersion learning.

With a language as vastly used as Spanish, becoming fluent does more than just open communication lines – it breaks down communication barriers. When the language barriers are taken down, cultural learning and enrichment are open and available for even greater impacts on our children.

“Dual language programs show students a broader world-view, whatever the native language of the student, and lead to greater opportunities for collaborative learning.” – Huffington Post.

5 – Increased Fluency

When you consider all of the factors above, it makes sense to deduce that Spanish as a second language comes with an increased chance for fluency later in life when introduced at an early age. Combining the fact that the two languages share so many similarities, with the fact that they increase linguistic foundations overall, it’s easy to understand how your child will be building a strong potential for continuing their learning later in life.

“It generally takes five to seven years to be proficient in a second language… In other words, U.S. students should be introduced to a second language at a young age in order to be fluent by adulthood.” – Huffington Post.

Overall, when choosing a second language for early childhood education, a vast majority of parents have chosen Spanish for a multitude of reasons. With the increasing Spanish-speaking population and wide-spread use of Spanish across the globe, it’s certainly the most popular choice. It also shares a root in Latin-based linguistics, giving it so many similarities to English and making it an easy-learn for young minds.

Whatever your reason, introducing Spanish to early education students has unparalleled benefits across the board. Speak with bilingual educational professionals near you to learn even more advantages to Spanish instruction!