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Language and Literacy Development in Understanding Child Development
 
 
Language and Literacy Development in Understanding Child Development

Introduction

Language and literacy development are major domains of early childhood development. They involve development of the skills used to communicate with others through languages (language development), as well as the ability to read and write (literacy development). An example of language and literacy development in childhood learning is to speak the native language of one's parents and read basic words in that language. This type of development begins from birth, even though babies are not yet able to speak using language. The following article covers the key areas of knowledge one should have in regard to early childhood language and literacy development, including key concepts, ways that adult caregivers can support the language and literacy development of babies and young children, and common communication disorders.

Key Concepts

Language has been defined as "a system of symbols that is used to communicate." 2 Related to this, bilingualism is the ability to speak at least two languages. Children are born with the brain capacity to learn language because it is an innate feature of the human brain. The brain regions responsible for language development are Broca's area, which controls speech production, and Wernicke's area, which controls the understanding and cognitive processing of language2.

Language develops through children's interactions with other people around them. For example, a baby hears his or her mother talk directly to him or her, as well as to other people. Hearing the mother's speech may encourage a baby to try to imitate the sounds that he or she hears over time. Furthermore, the baby will quickly learn which words are connected to certain objects or people, and which words may produce particular responses from others.

Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write1. Like language, literacy develops through the interactions a child experiences with others. In early childhood, for example, literacy can develop through hearing stories read from books and showing children pictures with words. It is important that adults do not attempt to force adult levels of reading onto children in their early development, as this is considered developmentally-inappropriate and may actually work against healthy development1. For example, a child who is pushed to learn to write too soon may come to connect the activity of writing with failure and disappointment.

Ways to Support Language and Literacy Development in Early Childhood

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There are simple ways that adult caregivers can help support the language and literacy development within early childhood. One way to do this is through books. The following tips help support children's healthy development in this area using books1:

  • Incorporate books and reading into daily routines, like a part of a child's bedtime ritual.
  • Remember that very young children may not have the attention span to sit through long books; reading a book partially is still helpful.
  • Use all forms of verbal expression to read to children, including reading, singing, and conversing about the content of books.
  • Connect the stories found in books to the child's life (i.e., personalize them).
  • As babies get older, show them the words that you are reading, as you read them.
  • Keep children engaged in reading by asking them questions along the way, or letting them tell stories.
  • Keep in mind that what young children like in books is different than what older children like; for example, books with bright colors, large print, and lots of novelty are more appealing to young children.

Communication Disorders

For some children, language development does not occur in a typical fashion and a communication disorder may emerge. Such disorders are characterized by deficits in children's skills in speaking, listening, and/or communicating with others2. Common communication disorders include2:

  • Expressive language disorder – involves incorrect use of words and tenses, problems forming sentences (which are typical of the child's age), and limited vocabulary
  • Phonological disorder – involves trouble with correct sound production and selection (e.g., a child with this disorder may replace one sound for another)
  • Stuttering – involves difficulty with the timing of sounds and words which impairs overall fluency; a child who stutters may frequently pause in the middle of speech or repeat the same words several times while speaking.
  • Dyslexia - This is considered a learning disability and not necessarily a communication disorder, although it may affect communication; it involves difficulty with separating distinct sounds contained in words and makes reading especially difficult.
  • Dysgraphia – This is considered a learning disability and not necessarily a communication disorder, although it may affect communication; it involves difficulty with writing -- problems with spelling, proper handwriting, or expression of thoughts in written form.

Conclusion

Language and literacy are major domains of early childhood development. These are connected areas, but refer to different things. Language development involves the development of the skills used to communicate with others through languages, while literacy development involves the ability to read and write. Babies are born with the capacity for development in these areas. There are simple ways that adults can support this development. In addition to understanding basic behaviors, adults should also be aware of common communication disorders, which may impede language and literacy development.

Developmental Milestones


Introduction

Developmental milestones are typical changes that occur for children as they grow from birth throughout childhood. They are reached at different times for different children and may be impacted by developmental disabilities. Research has helped shed light on the developmental milestones that occur for most children within all of the major domains of development, including physical, cognitive, emotional/social, and language/literacy development. The following section presents the key milestones that babies and toddlers should reach in the first five years of life.

Milestones in Physical Development

Physical development is a major domain of early childhood development. It encompasses the biological development of the body -- such as body growth and organ development -- and skills that are performed using the body. The following chart summarizes the key milestones that are typically reached in physical development in early childhood.

Age

Milestones

By 2 months

Can begin to hold head up

Starts pushing up during tummy time

Movements of limbs become smoother

By 4 months

Can hold head steady without support

Pushes legs against hard surfaces

May begin rolling over

Can grasp and hold toys

By 6 months

Can roll over bi-directionally

Can sit unsupported

Can support own weight on legs; may also be able to bounce up and down

By 9 months

Can stand while holding onto something for support

Can maneuver body into a sitting position

Can crawl

By 1 year

Can walk, sometimes needing support of nearby objects

Might be able to stand and/or walk without holding on

By 1½ years

Can walk without support

May be able to stair climb or run

Can drink from a cup

Can carry objects like toys while walking

Can eat with a utensil

By 2 years

More coordination (e.g., can kick or throw a ball)

Can stair climb

Can draw and color

By 3 years

Can easily stair climb, run, etc.

Can use a bike (e.g., tricycle, bike with training wheels)

By 4 years

Can hop and stand on one foot

Can catch balls with greater accuracy

Can eat with more control (e.g., pouring own juice)

By 5 years

Can hop, skip, and stand on one foot for an extended time

May be able to do complex movements (e.g., somersaults, climbing)

Can use the toilet

Can use more utensils at mealtime

Source: Adapted from information by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1

Milestones in Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is a major domain of early childhood development. Cognition involves operation of the mind, or thinking. Examples of cognitive development in childhood include children learning to distinguish between behaviors that will be rewarded, versus those that will be punished by their parents, and then making decisions (e.g., to follow directions) based on this reasoning. The following chart summarizes the key milestones that are typically reached in cognitive development in early childhood.

Age

Milestones

By 2 months

Notices faces

Can begin tracking people and objects with eyes

May express boredom without novelty (e.g., crying)

By 4 months

Can express happiness and sadness

Can respond to affection from others

Can recognize familiar people and things

By 6 months

Can intentionally bring objects to mouth

Can pass objects between both hands

Expresses more curiosity about environment

By 9 months

Can look for hidden objects (may or may not find them)

Can look at objects as they fall

Can play "peek-a-boo"

By 1 year

Can easily find hidden objects

Explores in new ways (e.g., throwing, banging on objects)

Can copy other people's gestures

Can follow simple directions

By 1½ years

Can understand the function of objects (e.g., phone, plate)

Can point to things to express interest

Can follow more directions

By 2 years

Can distinguish shapes, colors, etc.

Can learn and recall the content of books and songs

Can follow more complex directions

By 3 years

Can play pretend games

Can understand the meaning of numbers

Can solve problems (e.g., how to fit puzzle pieces or blocks together)

By 4 years

Can names colors, letters, numbers, etc.

Can remember story plots

Can distinguish more complex ideas (e.g., same vs. different)

Can play more difficult games (e.g., board, card)

By 5 years

Can count

Can draw with more complexity

Can understand daily scenarios (e.g., going to school, grocery store shopping)

Source: Adapted from information by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Milestones in Emotional and Social Development

Emotional and social development are major domains of early childhood development. This type of development is critical to human functioning and rooted in the biology of human beings -- and a critical one for healthy functioning throughout life. The following chart summarizes the key milestones that are typically reached in emotional and social development in early childhood.

Age

Milestones

By 2 months

Can smile at others

Can self-soothe

By 4 months

Enjoys play and novelty

May be able to copy facial expressions

By 6 months

Can recognize strangers vs. familiar people

Can respond to the emotions of others

Can recognize self in mirror

By 9 months

May become clingy to caregivers and fearful of strangers

May have developed favorite toys

By 1 year

Can gain attention through sounds and actions

May be fearful of new situations or the departure of a caregiver

May show preference toward things or people

By 1½ years

May engage in temper tantrums

Can play pretend games

Can explore a lot but may need caregiver close by

By 2 years

Can copy the behavior of others

Becomes more independent

May disobey rules or act resistant

By 3 years

Can show affection for peers

Imitates the actions of others

Can show empathy

Greater range of emotional expression

By 4 years

Becomes more creative

Shows and expresses own interests

Shows more interest in playing with others than alone

By 5 years

Shows interest in friends and in pleasing them

Has gender awareness

More following rules than disobeying of earlier age

Source: Adapted from information by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1

Milestones in Language and Literacy Development

Language and literacy development are major domains of early childhood development. They involve development of the skills used to communicate with others through languages (language development), as well as the ability to read and write (literacy development). An example of language and literacy development in childhood is learning to speak the native language of one's parents and read basic words in that language. The following chart summarizes the key milestones that are typically reached in language and literacy development in early childhood.

Age

Milestones

By 2 months

Makes cooing and gurgling sounds

Pays attention to sounds

By 4 months

Can babble

Will cry in various ways to express needs (e.g., hunger, tiredness)

By 6 months

Can respond to people with basic sounds

Can pronounce vowels

Can recognize own name

By 9 months

Can make basic sounds (e.g., "dada" and "mama")

Can copy the sounds of other people

By 1 year

Can respond to others' requests

Can try to verbalize the words that he or she hears

Can communicate through gestures (e.g., shaking head no)

By 1½ years

Can say many words

May communicate through pointing

By 2 years

Can form short sentences

Can repeat more words used by others

Can name objects and people

By 3 years

Can hold conversations

Can names more objects and people

Understands more complex instructions (2 to 3 steps)

By 4 years

Can tell stories

Understands some grammatical rules

Can sing a song or recite a poem

By 5 years

Can speak in clear sentences

Can understand tense (e.g., past vs. future)

May be able to recite more complex things (e.g., own address)

Source: Adapted from information by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1

 
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