Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Gift of Language

By Christina VanGinkel

The headline reads 'For the Love of Words', and was an editorial on how important it is for children to learn to understand and learn words early on. Language is very important, and as someone who read to each of her own children from the very earliest days of their lives, and who chose to speak to her kids from when they were just hours old as if they could understand every word being said to them, I wholeheartedly agreed. Still, as I read the article, I was reminded just how important language really is for a child. Without language, there would be no communicating, and if we could not communicate with our kids, life would be very different from what we know it to be. For this fact, each child should be given the right to language right alongside their counterparts, and as a parent, it is our responsibility to make sure that this right is given to our children.

Language allows us to teach our children, and to interact with them. It lets us tell them we love them, and it allows them to tell us that they are hungry, tired, thirsty, or that they want to go to the park, or have to go potty, and allows us to respond in a manner that our children can learn to interpret. Language is a building block that makes each of us who we are. Whether spoken vocally, signed, or even produced mechanically through the help of a computer for the impaired, language helps define each and every one of us. Without language, in some form or another, our lives would be very solitary.

As I read over the article, it touched on some of the basics, such as the importance of reading to our children. While reading is often a basic skill that some of us just take for granted, as I read the article, it brought to mind that not everyone does read to his or her children. Some adults do not know how to read, and some just choose not to. They feel that their day is too busy, to filled with work and other responsibilities. Maybe some feel that they cannot afford to buy books. To these parents I would advise that they go to their local library, download a free e-book online, or even to make up their own story. Even a simple rendition of a remembered story from his or her, very own childhood, is better than no reading at all. Reading a single book, even a short one, each day to your child can bridge a huge gap of future understanding between the two of you. It not only provides language skills, reading to your child provides a lot more, mainly interaction!

The article that I read also relayed the facts of how as children grow older, their language skills should increase, that a simple word, for an everyday object, should expand to include more descriptive words when appropriate. A child that has been interacted with verbally will learn quicker than a child that has not been read and talked to, in my opinion, simply for the fact hat they are better equipped to understand that which is being taught to them. With this in mind, as your child grows older, continue to read to them, just increase the complexity of what it is you read to them. Switch to a simple chapter book instead of a picture book for example, and read a chapter or two a night, spreading the book out over several nights. This way, you still get the time to interact, and your child is not bored with books that might fit the time you can afford to spend reading to them, but are too childish for their current level.

If you strive to teach your child one thing while they are just young babies in your arms, teach them the one talent that will allow them the skills to learn others, and that is language. Through language, they will relate to others in their lives from here on out. First you, their parent, their siblings, other caregivers and school teachers, the man checking them out at the grocery store, their physician as she asks them what they are visiting her for. Language is how we each interact with nearly everybody in our lives. Give your child the gift that life as we know it is largely built on, give them the gift of language.

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