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The Family Reading Partnership, located in Elmira, New York, is a coalition of organizations, individuals, schools, libraries and businesses that is working to create a "culture of literacy" by promoting family reading practices in the community and beyond."

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Power of Words

By Joseph Caparulo

Education Committee
Need To Read, Chemung Valley Family Reading Partnership
Star-Gazette, 2B, March 11, 2014

In the framework of our current community discussion and debate about school configuration, teacher evaluation and the latest incarnation to solve learning proficiency – “Common Core” – it seems appropriate to emphasize a simple but profound fact about childhood learning.

Vocabulary, language, reading:  These are essential skills.  If introduced to our children from birth to three years, they will have a profound influence in assisting their lifetime learning and educational experience.

The fundamental building blocks to create this community of literacy in our children and their families are Words.  Consistent exposure to verbal stimulae from parents, guardians, siblings and peers enables a greater proficiency in language skills and, soon after, reading comprehension.  These fundamentals are the basis for a child’s strong desire to learn and, thus, succeed.

Recent reports and studies consistently prove that poor language skills and literacy are equated with home environments that have little oral language and vocabulary interaction.  This compounds the challenges of teachers and educators encountering children in Pre-K and K who are word and language deficient.

Efforts to close the education gap between disadvantaged and stable households must focus on the child’s first and most important teacher:  The parent.  Parents who have never had any success in school also need help and encouragement in discovering the importance of verbal expression with their infants and toddlers, but the challenge of talking and reading to our children involves the total community. 

Even in households of means and higher education standards, the influence of     
digital distraction – both audio and visual – can be detrimental to child development. 
Interaction with our babies and toddlers – our future students – will never happen unless
parents turn off the televisions, smart phones, video games and computer screens that
prevent the essential and vital acts of talking and reading to their children.

The opportunities for these conversational experiences can occur naturally and
spontaneously.  Try to keep your baby exposed to conversation whenever possible. 
During feeding, bathing, changing, holding and play respond to the babbles and sounds
your child makes with words, describe their surroundings, sing a song, read from a book,
tell a story or create a story.  “See the red ball bounce” contains key ingredients that
inform a baby’s future observation and comprehension skills.

Language is the very root of what it means to be human.  We can equate our children’s 
intake of words with their intake of nutrition.  Words = Food.  As we attend to the health
of their bodies we must equally attend to the health of their hearts and minds by filling
them with the sounds, descriptions and power of words.   


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