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A mother talking to her baby

Talking Teaches Early Literacy

Talking is one of the most important things we can do with our children to get them ready to learn and to read. Talking teaches all of the early literacy skills and components young children need to know to be ready to learn to read. When we engage children in any of the other practices — Singing, Reading, Playing, or Writing — we should also always be Talking! How often we talk with children — and how we talk — makes all the difference.

What Kind of Talking?

All children hear 'business talk' - talking about what needs to get done, such as 'It's time to go,' or 'Wash your hands,' or 'Don't touch that!' Children hear approximately 600 business talk words per hour.

Some children hear far more words than that - 1500 more words per hour. Those words are 'extra talk' or 'play talk' or 'language dancing.'

Extra talk:

  • Tends to be richer

  • Contains a wide variety of words

  • Is more responsive and encouraging

  • Gives more information, more back-and-forth conversation, and more interesting and unusual words

  • Encourages children to question, explore, put ideas into words, and figure things out

It's this kind of talk that is essential to helping children get ready to learn to read. It makes all the difference between children who struggle to read and those who excel.

What's the Best Way to Develop Early Literacy Skills with Talking?

    • Verbalize a child's gestures.

    • Imitate the child's sounds and actions - you can have a back-and-forth conversation even with a small infant! Imitate the babbles, add words and babble some more. Use parentese, exagerrated words hat are fun to use with baby and help baby hear the language more easily.

    • Repeat what the child says and add descriptive words or other embellishments.

    • Ask open-ended questions.

    • Think out loud.

    • Strive for five! Take multiple turns in talking between the child and adult. To encourage a child to respond,the adult can ask questions or use open ended sentences, such as 'Tell me more,' every child ready to read logo 'That's interesting,' and 'I remember when...'

Putting it Into Action:

Here are several examples of using Talking to help build early literacy skills:

  • A young child gestures toward something. The adult puts words to what the child is trying to communicate. The adult waits and then asks the child to use those words. Those words may be babble, but an important two-way conversation is happening and the baby is learning important components of oral language.

  • An adult asks a question, perhaps about a picture in a book. Wait at least five seconds for the child to respond. Then the adult can answer the question, perhaps describing the pictures in the book or what is happening. The child is learning language that he or she will use later.

  • Adults can talk about the reasons for anything and everything around them.

  • Adults can encourage children to talk about things that have happened or are happening around them. They can encourage pretend play and acting out stories. Adults can add to what the child is saying, using descriptive words, synonyms, and bits of information the child may not know.

  • Adults can think aloud - about what they are doing, or expressing curiosity about various things. Always allow time for the child to jump into the conversation. Adults can narrate the day, describing what they will be doing first, next, and so on. Try to add two embellishing sentences to what is said. For example, a parent might say, "Put your coat on. We are going shopping." Then add at least two sentences to that command - perhaps explaining what they will be shopping for and why.

Sources:

• Ghoting, Soroj. Storytimes for Everyone. Chicago: ALA. 2013.
• Parent Cortical Mass. "What Is 'Language Dancing' and Why Is It Important to Parents?" Web 19 April 2015.
• Wallis, Catriona. "How to Encourage Young Children to Start Talking and Expressing Themselves." HuffPost. Parents the Blog. April 30, 2014. Web 28 April 2015.

Preschool Events
Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Mar 26, 10:00am - 10:45am
This event is full

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Mar 26, 10:30am - 11:30am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Mar 26, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Lake Station-New Chicago - Children's Program Room
Tue, Mar 26, 6:30pm - 7:00pm

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Mar 27, 10:30am - 11:00am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Wed, Mar 27, 10:30am - 11:00am

Dyer-Schererville - Meeting Room Whole (A & B)
Wed, Mar 27, 10:30am - 11:30am

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Mar 27, 10:30am - 11:30am

Munster - Children's Program Room
Wed, Mar 27, 10:30am - 11:00am

Lake Station-New Chicago - Children's Program Room
Wed, Mar 27, 11:00am - 11:30am

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Mar 28, 10:00am - 11:00am
This event is full

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Mar 28, 10:30am - 11:15am

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 01, 10:30am - 11:00am

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 01, 10:30am - 11:00am

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 01, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 01, 1:30pm - 2:15pm

St. John - Children's Section
Mon, Apr 01, 4:30pm - 5:30pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 02, 10:00am - 10:45am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 02, 10:30am - 11:30am

Munster - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 02, 10:30am - 11:30am

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 02, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 02, 6:30pm - 7:00pm

Highland
Wed, Apr 03, 10:30am - 11:00am

Munster - Children's Program Room
Wed, Apr 03, 10:30am - 11:30am

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 03, 10:30am - 11:30am

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 03, 10:30am - 11:00am

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Wed, Apr 03, 10:30am - 11:00am

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 03, 6:00pm - 6:45pm

Rescheduled
Highland
Thu, Apr 04, 10:30am - 11:00am
New date Wednesday, April 03, 10:30am - 11:00am

Munster Library - Children's Area
Thu, Apr 04, 6:00pm - 7:00pm

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Apr 04, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Fri, Apr 05, 10:30am - 11:00am

Highland - Meeting Room A
Fri, Apr 05, 10:30am - 11:30am

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Fri, Apr 05, 11:30am - 12:00pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Sat, Apr 06, 10:30am - 11:00am

St. John - Entry
Mon, Apr 08, 10:00am - 8:30pm

Munster - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 08, 10:30am - 11:30am

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 08, 10:30am - 11:00am

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 08, 10:30am - 11:15am

Munster - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 08, 11:30am - 12:30pm

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 08, 1:30pm - 2:15pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 09, 10:00am - 10:45am

St. John - Entry
Tue, Apr 09, 10:00am - 8:30pm

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 09, 10:30am - 11:30am

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 09, 10:30am - 11:00am

Cedar Lake - Meeting Room A
Tue, Apr 09, 10:30am - 11:30am

Canceled
Lake Station-New Chicago
Tue, Apr 09, 11:00am - 12:30pm

Lake Station-New Chicago - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 09, 11:00am - 11:45am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 09, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 09, 1:30pm - 2:15pm

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 09, 6:00pm - 6:30pm

St. John - Entry
Wed, Apr 10, 10:00am - 8:30pm

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 10, 10:15am - 10:45am

Munster - Children's Program Room
Wed, Apr 10, 10:30am - 11:00am

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 10, 10:30am - 11:00am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Wed, Apr 10, 10:30am - 11:00am

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 10, 10:30am - 11:30am

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 10, 11:15am - 11:45am

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Apr 11, 10:00am - 11:00am

St. John - Entry
Thu, Apr 11, 10:00am - 8:30pm

St. John - Entry
Thu, Apr 11, 10:00am - 8:15pm

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Apr 11, 10:30am - 11:15am

Dyer-Schererville - Meeting Room Whole (A & B)
Thu, Apr 11, 10:30am - 11:00am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Thu, Apr 11, 4:30pm - 5:30pm

St. John - Entry
Fri, Apr 12, 10:00am - 6:00pm

St. John - Entry
Sat, Apr 13, 9:00am - 5:00pm

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Sat, Apr 13, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Lake Station-New Chicago - Large Meeting Room
Sat, Apr 13, 3:00pm - 4:00pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 15, 10:30am - 11:00am

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 15, 10:30am - 11:00am

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 15, 10:30am - 11:00am

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 15, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 15, 1:30pm - 2:15pm

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 15, 1:30pm - 2:15pm

St. John - Large Meeting Room
Mon, Apr 15, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 16, 10:00am - 10:45am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 16, 10:30am - 11:30am

Munster - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 16, 10:30am - 11:30am

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 16, 10:30am - 11:00am

Lake Station-New Chicago - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 16, 11:00am - 11:45am

Dyer-Schererville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 16, 1:30pm - 2:15pm

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 16, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 16, 6:30pm - 7:00pm

Canceled
Highland
Wed, Apr 17, 10:30am - 11:00am

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Fri, Apr 19, 10:30am - 11:00am

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Fri, Apr 19, 11:30am - 12:00pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Sat, Apr 20, 10:30am - 11:00am

Children's Area Dyer/Schererville
Sat, Apr 20, 11:00am - 12:00pm

Munster - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 22, 10:30am - 11:30am

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Mon, Apr 22, 10:30am - 11:15am

Munster - Children's Program Room
Mon, Apr 22, 11:30am - 12:30pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 23, 10:00am - 10:45am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 23, 10:30am - 11:30am

Lake Station-New Chicago - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 23, 11:00am - 11:45am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 23, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Munster - Children's Program Room
Wed, Apr 24, 10:30am - 11:00am

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 24, 10:30am - 11:00am

St. John - Children's Program Room
Wed, Apr 24, 10:30am - 11:00am

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 24, 10:30am - 11:30am

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Apr 25, 10:00am - 11:00am

Cedar Lake - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Apr 25, 10:30am - 11:15am

Family Events
Merrillville - Meeting Room B
Tue, Mar 26, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This event is full

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Mar 26, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

St. John - Large Meeting Room
Wed, Mar 27, 6:00pm - 7:45pm

St. John - Large Meeting Room
Thu, Mar 28, 10:30am - 12:30pm

Community Room - Community Room
Thu, Mar 28, 5:00pm - 8:00pm

St. John - Children's Section
Mon, Apr 01, 4:30pm - 5:30pm

Merrillville - Meeting Room B
Tue, Apr 02, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This event is full

Lake Station-New Chicago - Large Meeting Room
Wed, Apr 03, 10:30am - 12:00pm

Highland - Meeting Room A
Wed, Apr 03, 6:00pm - 7:00pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Wed, Apr 03, 6:00pm - 6:45pm

Merrillville - Children's Programming Room
Fri, Apr 05, 10:30am - 11:30am

Dyer-Schererville
Mon, Apr 08, 10:00am - 8:30pm

Griffith/Calumet Twp Branch - Library
Mon, Apr 08, 10:00am - 8:00pm

Highland Library tables
Mon, Apr 08, 10:00am - 8:30pm

St. John - Entry
Mon, Apr 08, 10:00am - 8:30pm

Munster - Large Meeting Room
Mon, Apr 08, 10:30am - 11:30am

Cedar Lake - Meeting Room A
Mon, Apr 08, 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Cedar Lake - Meeting Room A
Mon, Apr 08, 6:00pm - 7:00pm

St. John - Entry
Tue, Apr 09, 10:00am - 8:30pm

Hobart Branch - Public seating area
Tue, Apr 09, 10:00am - 11:00am

Canceled
Lake Station-New Chicago
Tue, Apr 09, 11:00am - 12:30pm

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Tue, Apr 09, 6:00pm - 6:30pm

Merrillville - Meeting Room B
Tue, Apr 09, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This event is full

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 09, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

St. John - Entry
Wed, Apr 10, 10:00am - 8:30pm

Cedar Lake - Meeting Room A
Wed, Apr 10, 1:30pm - 2:30pm

Munster - Large Meeting Room
Wed, Apr 10, 2:00pm - 7:00pm

St. John - Entry
Thu, Apr 11, 10:00am - 8:30pm

St. John - Entry
Thu, Apr 11, 10:00am - 8:15pm

St. John - Children's Program Room
Thu, Apr 11, 4:30pm - 5:30pm

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Meeting Room
Thu, Apr 11, 6:00pm - 7:00pm

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Thu, Apr 11, 6:00pm - 7:00pm

St. John - Entry
Fri, Apr 12, 10:00am - 6:00pm

St. John - Entry
Sat, Apr 13, 9:00am - 5:00pm

Hobart - Children's Program Room
Sat, Apr 13, 10:00am - 10:45am

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Sat, Apr 13, 2:00pm - 3:00pm

Lake Station-New Chicago - Large Meeting Room
Sat, Apr 13, 3:00pm - 4:00pm

St. John - Large Meeting Room
Mon, Apr 15, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Griffith-Calumet Twp - Meeting Room
Mon, Apr 15, 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Merrillville - Meeting Room B
Tue, Apr 16, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This event is full

Hobart Branch - Public area
Thu, Apr 18, All day

Children's Area Dyer/Schererville
Sat, Apr 20, 11:00am - 12:00pm

Cedar Lake - Meeting Room A
Mon, Apr 22, 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Merrillville - Meeting Room B
Tue, Apr 23, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This event is full

Highland - Children's Programming Room
Tue, Apr 23, 6:30pm - 7:30pm