Language and Literacy Predict Later Success at School

By Roxane Bélanger, SLP-C, Reg. CALSPO Speech Language Pathologist August 27, 2020

Research is clear: children with strong language skills do better at school. Why? Strong language skills, in any language, make it easier for children to learn at school.Many skills such as cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, motor,as well as many other discrete skills, need to be mastered by a child for a smooth transition to school and academic learning. But language skills seem to be the ONE MAIN underlying skill that interact with most of other skills and determine success at school.

Language and literacy skills start at birth and grow over the course of the preschool years while children are making friends, are learning how to deal with their big emotions and are interacting with familiar faces and strangers at home, at the grocery store or at daycare. 

As parents, you can help their preschool children get ready for school in everyday activities and routines.  

Talk with your child all throughout the day, every day. 

Studies show that frequent conversations between adults and children are associated with better language outcomes and school success. 

  • Get chatty with kids throughout the day. 
  • Make comments and ask questions that encourage conversations. 
  • Join in the play and take a turn. 
  • Follow your child's lead and interest for a chance for a longer conversation. 
  • Use daily activities like preparing for breakfast or going ready for a walk to talk with your child. 
  • Ask a genuine question for which you really don't know the answer. Try something like, "Tell me why you are taking the crust off the bread?" (Please, please tell me!)

Everything you do at home helps your children learn

Every single daily activity you do with your child is an opportunity for learning. #Truethat

  • Daily routines such as getting dressed is a great way to use language to develop verbal reasoning. Getting dressed appropriately for the season can be a great occasion to practice verbal reasoning (No, sweet pea, wearing a sundress with heels in the middle of winter is not an option because it's so cold). Talk about the different clothes worn in the winter or in the summer. 
  • Preparing and eating healthy food can lead to great conversations about similarities and differences of the snacks we have, or a sorting game by categories (Chocolate is not a vegetable, even if it grows on trees.)
  • Playing with toys, helping around the house and going out for a walk are all helpful activities to help your child learn and grow. Other activities may include doing chores at home, using the bathroom, taking turns, sharing toys,playing games, choosing a book or a snack, crossing the road and playing in a safe place.

Focus on routines

Having routines at home prepares your children for the many new routines they will learn at school. Routines are activities we do in the same order and in the same way almost every time. For example, a bedtime routine may include activities like: having a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading a story, turning off the lights.During a routine:

  • Keep talking to your child during the routine. Talk about the objects used and the actions you do together. Use the appropriate words associated to the task 
  • Talk about the steps involved and include words such as spatial concepts (e.g., in front, beside, under) or time concepts (e.g., first, then, at the end).
  • Help your child plan and make predictions about what’s going to happen next. This will help your child develop executive functions in the form of thinking, reasoning, planning through conversations. 
  • Get your child to be independent.  Once they know the routine, your child can do a part of the activity by themselves, under your guiding support. 
  • Practice self-control by starting and finishing a task. 

All these important languages based skills will be used later at school to learn, to work with friends, and to participate fully to the classroom routine.   

Read books and share stories together

Reading aloud is one of the best language activities for children of all ages. Reading helps grow listening and conversation skills. It sparks the child's imagination and it extends their knowledge of the world around them. 

  • Name the objects, people and actions in the pictures. Use new words and ideas to talk about the pictures. 
  • Pick books that match your child's interest or that could spark a new passion. Use books about the rain forest, the life of Vikings or about the Paw Patrol crew latest adventure. These help children learn about the people, places,and experiences happening outside of their own lives. 
  • Make reading fun by changing your voice for different parts of the story. Encourage children to tell a story from a book or from their imagination. 
  • Have children re-tell their favorite books to pets (A cuddly dog is a great listener!) or dolls (They really don't interrupt!). Get them to practice with familiar, predictable books ("Brown Bear,Brown Bear, what do you see?" is a good example). 
  • Don’t limit it to books. Try reading words on signs, magazines, advertisements or cereal boxes. 
  • Don’t force children to choose story time instead of TV or play. Have a time for all activities. Find a quiet convenient time and a comfortable area to read every day.

All that you do on a daily basis helps your child get ready for school. 

Want to know more about speech and language development? Visit the First Words website.

Concerned about your child'communication development? Complete our online screening tool or call the
 Ottawa Public Health Information Line at (613) 580-6744.

Remember. Early intervention is the best approach!