Does the language matter?

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows that the importance of talking to and sharing books with young children is a recurring theme. Parents who don’t read English sometimes wonder how they can share books with their children because they have been told to avoid confusing their children with two languages. Unfortunately, this out-dated thinking actually interferes with important literacy skill development. Taking part in family conversation is a valuable opportunity for children to develop their language skills. A family’s first language is the scaffolding on which literacy is built, no matter which language is spoken. In fact, mastery of a second language thrives on a good foundation in the language spoken at home.  A child’s language development is built on listening to and communicating with the family. A talk-rich environment, whatever the language, is the key factor in language development.

According to Marlene B. Salas-Provance of the Garrett Speech and Hearing Center at NMSU, “The first language is the foundation for the second language. In addition, it is the language of ‘love’;  the language in which parents, grandparents, cousins and aunts communicate. If a young child is separated from that circle of communication, a valuable developmental tool is taken away.” The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association says, parents should support and build the first language as children learn the second.

According to literature from the Garrett Center, “There are some additional things to be aware of as your child is developing language. Your 1-year-old should be alert to her surroundings, follow simple commands, such as “come to mama or ven a mama,” and try to make babbling sounds like “mama and dada.” Two-year-old children should be putting two words together, such as “no quiero or up now;” however, the sounds in the words may not all be clear. By 3 years of age, your child should be using short phrases and sentences to communicate.”

As for reading books, parents who are not comfortable reading can still provide their young children quality experiences with books simply by talking about the pictures and making up the story. The mission of CRF-DAC is to support parents of preschoolers in developing these essential pre-reading skills.

During our First Teacher parenting classes parents receive practical guidance and materials that can be used in Spanish as well as English. Purposeful play between parent and child is the key to language development.  First Teacher classes empower parents of three to five year olds to provide consistent and effective language-based interaction with their children. Classes meet once a week for six weeks to share information that supports early child development and meets the age appropriate educational objectives of the NM Public Education Department. Registration for new classes begins this month. Thanks to financial support from the Stocker Foundation, we are offering classes at Loma Heights, Hermosa Heights, and Valley View elementary schools. Registration begins on Aug.7. For more information contact Karina Carrillo 575 202 8335 or Silvia Coronado 575 805 6653.