At her baby shower, one of Amy’s friends gave her a DVD to teach her baby to read. Filled with dreams for her soon-to-be-born babe, one of which being that her child will do well in school and be a good reader, she stopped to think about whether a DVD would be the best way for her young child to learn to read.
She is right to wonder. Though some DVDs may be highly engaging to toddlers and preschoolers, there is a very important and necessary early link to reading success. That link should not be overlooked. That link is language.
Language is the leader of learning. Language leads learning.
Children need to become highly skilled in understanding and using language in order to master reading and other academic concepts and skills. Language skill provides a child with vocabulary and the grammar rules that form and connect words together to create meaning.
Babies and toddlers who recite words from flashcards at a very early age are showing their ability to memorize visual word patterns. They are “word-calling” but not actually “reading”. They will still need to learn to “crack the code” of the relationship between letters and combinations of letters to produce the sounds that make up words. They will still need skill in phonics.
Amy will help her baby on the path to becoming a good reader some day by beginning right away to provide a rich language environment. That rich environment won’t cost her a cent. It will come from her own skills as a talker and from her heart as a mother. All that will be required is that she focus in on her child, talk a lot to her child throughout each day, resist numerous distractions that steal precious time from her interactions with her child, and make use of methods that will help her provide high-quality models for her child to benefit from.
Like most parents, Amy can enhance her skills by making use of language stimulation suggestions and methods that are available online and in books and eBooks. Many such methods do not come “naturally” to most parents, but they do feel natural once learned and practiced.
Once her child is demonstrating that she understands what is said to her and she is able to express herself, then high-quality DVDs may provide a good supplement to Amy’s verbal interactions with her daughter in play, with picture books, and throughout all daily activities.
Talking development comes first, then technology will make more sense. High talk, then tech.