Speech and language therapist, Catherine Campbell is my special guest blogger this month. She gives a great analogy about oral language and reading.
Way back in the 1970s a very wise chap named James Britton hit the jackpot and said something profound: “reading and writing float on a sea of talk.” As a speech-language therapist talking is what I do, what I promote and what I try my hardest to support in young children. I loved this idea of a sea of talk.
When I first heard this quote I instantly imagined elegant boats of reading and writing sailing away, on a vast sea of words, an ocean of words.
An ocean of words: oral language
But let’s go back a step and ask why we need a sea of talk or an ocean of words (also known as oral language)?
- Oral language is one of those phrases we are hearing more and more about in the news and in schools and in our early childhood centres.
- Oral language refers to the process of talking and thinking and formulating our thoughts into words.
- We need our youngsters to acquire this ocean of words because oral language is a prerequisite for so many future skills, but especially for learning to read and write.
Puddle or an Ocean?
Our young children need a language-rich environment, that is, an environment where they can learn and know lots of words, vocabulary, concepts, and experiences if we expect them to be able to read and write once they start school.
Hence the concept of establishing and promoting “an ocean of words”.
We don’t want our children to start school with a puddle of words or a bathtub of words or even a lake.
They need an ocean, a vast ocean.
Because the bigger the ocean, the bigger the sail boats of reading and writing. It’s very hard to sail a boat in a puddle. Perhaps one of those half walnut shell boats that we make at kindergarten?. But it can’t go very far or very fast and it’s highly likely to topple over. Likewise, we can only sail a small plastic boat in a bathtub and that soon reaches the end of the bath and fills with water and tips over. No that’s not the large, stable and elegant boats of reading and writing we want for our children. Because while initially, we learn to read, after a few short years at school we read to learn. So the success (and size) of our literacy boats has a direct relationship on our ability to learn more at school.
As parents and educators, we can help our children to build up this ocean of words by doing three very simple things every day.
Three steps that are backed up by science and yet incredibly easy to do:
- Talking more
- Reading more
- Singing more
Do these 3 things and watch with delight as you fill their ocean of words.
Specialist Speech Language Therapist who is the founder and clinician at CatherineTalks.
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