Developing Language Skills in Babies
Communicating with your child, and one way to do it is by talking to him.
Estelle Matthews: Now did you realize that many children in the UK enter school with inadequate language and communication skills and this need not be the case the majority of children can develop their communication skills as babies and toddlers with just a little help from their parents. The National Literacy Trust are attempting to address this and with me today in the studio is Liz Attenborough who runs that Talk to you baby campaign. First of all Liz welcome and what is the National Literacy Trust?
Liz Attenborough: It's a literacy based charity that's really about making a literate nation for everyone concentrating on all age groups but in particular I am concentrating on the idea is with a feeling with a language rich home from the start, you are much more able to cop with all the literacy that's going to be throwing at you later.
Estelle Matthews: Tell us a bit more about your specific campaign.
Liz Attenborough: Yeah we don't believe that anybody will fully doesn't talk to their baby but for some reason people just aren't doing as much as they use to and we don't quite now what the reason is might be for -- might be on that. The different we have a family structure and the busy we all lead the fact also that we will do our own -- isolating things in the home we don't congregate in one warm room and have meal times together etc. but for whatever the reason many head teachers are saying that too many children arriving at school with poor communication skills and that effects their ability to learn but also their ability to make friends and be sociable and emotionally well fed beings yeah.
Estelle Matthews: Now you are saying too many children but just how big is the problem Liz.
Liz Attenborough: Well it does sound as if some reception classes teachers are saying that over 50% are coming with what they would consider poor communications skills for the age and it's going to hold them back. So what we are suggesting is that much more time given in the home by parents to take time to communicate with their child which as well talking directly to the means also listening to them giving them time to practice because we learn to talk by imitation and we have to have get it ourselves someone is going to be there to listen and take time to encourage.
Estelle Matthews: Now we got a wonderful multicultural nation, but that does cause language problems a lot of people are going into school with English may be as a second language.
Liz Attenborough: Yes it seems that the experts say that if you do have two languages or you are speaking at home something that isn't English you should carry on doing that because the key thing is to become a good communicator and actually children who have two or even three languages although they may filter when they are quite young later actually have a much better facility for language but the key thing is that they should learn to become communicators in whatever languages best in the home.
Estelle Matthews: So let's go through a few key points, what if we got to avoid and for example let's talk about very sensitive issue of dummies. Should we or shouldn't we give our children dummies?
Liz Attenborough: It is sensitive issue you are quite right but the advice from speech and language therapist and dentist and things is that dummy should be gone by the first by your first birthday and up to when should any be used for a very short time each day because it does effect the way your mouth develops or the way you use your tongue and you really cant learn to talk if you got something in your mouth.
Estelle Matthews: So it's not so much to do deal with it, it's a lazy options for the parents it's more to do with the actual development of the mouth.
Liz Attenborough: The development of the soft palate all sorts of technical things and it is much more beneficial for you as a baby to be able to babble to use our lips and that's how you learn to talk because babies are born to be sociable and when they first pop out they are making movements with their mouths which actually is imitating what you are doing but their mouth is immature so they cant actually say the words but if you look very carefully at what they are doing, what they are doing is trying to do is what you are doing. So they need to learn that.
Estelle Matthews: How early should your baby be talking?
Liz Attenborough: It's not a question of how early the baby says a word to you but it's about very early you try talking to them and then it will come and until really the first word your baby says its the first time they utter something that you have understood so it may not be a fully formed word but it means they have communicated something that you have understood and that can be under a year.
Estelle Matthews: That brings me on to when they do say things it's often gobbledygook, because it would be like goggy instead of doggy etcetera. Should you be correcting them or encouraging them to carry on as they are?
Liz Attenborough: Yeah well I think correcting them is not the thing to do you don't say don't say that, you say this but if they point and say og then you say yes he is a lovely little dog isn't he and you just repeat word they have said, you don't correct it this much and eventually they will learn. It's the most extraordinary difficult thing a child has to learn is the language the real language and it's amazing how most of us manage it in the end. So it's to be encouraged at all time, singing that sort of thing makes enormous difference.
Estelle Matthews: Now I know that you think TV is actually quite a good thing rationed and dealt within the right way and then my three children always been interested in trying to watch the same old video over and over again and really go mad thinking if I see Thomas the Tank Engine again, I will have to television off, but they love it, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Liz Attenborough: Well it's interesting that videos are thought be a good thing for learning language because of that familiarity as he say I expect it -- you have probably got a child he is word perfect in some episodes of Thomas and television can be good if an adult facilitates, if an adult is there to talk about it to sing the songs later that you have learnt on the television but the key thing is for it not to be on as a background noise a whole time because that is very distracting young children find it very difficult to differentiate sound so it just becomes like wallpaper, they cant pick out sound, but if you sit down with them switch on something specific they watch something and then you talk about it later can be a learning experiencing certainly.
Estelle Matthews: Why do you think this problem has got so much greater recently?
Liz Attenborough: We just don't know if we did know one thing we could tackle but we are trying to come at it from all sort of angles one of the things I have got a -- I was going to say a bug, but that's about where the bug is that we think really face the wrong way because they are facing away from the pusher in the way that primes and pushers you use to face the pusher and somehow when you faced with a small face with eyes looking at you to talk to him or her and bug is now facing out we would switch on it many people think oh! it's great they are facing the world and seeing the world but they are seeing it on mediated world they are doing it on their own and can be very isolating to just be sitting their at low level.
So we would certainly advocate for more affordable primes to what it be called sociable buggies so that they are facing the pusher, so that there is times that you do spend in the buggy can be made more of a communicating experience, supermarket trolleys do that brilliantly. They are facing the right way at the moment. But we don't know what it is we are trying to come at it from every angle television, buggies yes, dummies yes, all these things, but I think the main key thing is that parents just to be aware of their roll and to make them feel that they have got a roll to play which is incredibly important but also hugely enjoyable for them and their child and to do that to familiar playing, making noises, nursery rhymes, reading books together to give you something to talk about.
Estelle Matthews: I would imagine it's also harder for the youngest sibling because although they are getting the encouragement in a positive way from their brothers and sisters, their if I am not having the concentrated parental time and may be that the old brothers and sisters you have.
Liz Attenborough: That does seem to be the case that has research to show that second and third siblings are slightly slower to learning language but actually they sometimes have a broader range or richer range because in a way although they have missed out and having their parents fulltime attention they have had the addition of an older sibling, but older sibling also have a part to play on television watching for instance because the older child is always the willing charge of the remote and so they are watching programs they want to watch which are not necessarily appropriate for the youngest and if the youngest can be watching some of the very good programs we are lucky enough to have in this country that are appropriate for that age group they will better off than just watching EastEnders or something else that everybody is watching because somebody else has switched it on.
Estelle Matthews: The case really to enjoy watching television selective television to your children.
Liz Attenborough: Selective television with your children, yes absolutely turn things off of the end we talk about it as it say and make it an involving experience relative in just a passive experience.
Estelle Matthews: But how much would they be watching?
Liz Attenborough: Well one would be hate to be prescriptive but I think that under five less than our day is really quite enough. But I think it gets harder more people have televisions in children's bedroom because then you cant keep an eye on what's going on or how long it's on or what they are watching. So I think more than just television being their, I think television in bedrooms is probably something to be very aware you off.
Estelle Matthews: Now if people want to know more about this how do [voice overlap] leaflet.
Liz Attenborough: Yes we have got website which is www.talktoyourbaby.org.uk and we are putting on the we have got a parents section because lots of parents just amazingly get in touch with this and tell us their concerns we got some downloadable leaflets on topics like bilingualism and dummies and television watching. But Speech and Language therapist in lots of areas of running talking groups which is good fun also at local libraries they have a lot of writing time sessions which are for very small babies where you go along learn rhymes and learn all those actions that you kind of vaguely remember from your past but calm quite.
Estelle Matthews: And this is a free service.
Liz Attenborough: Free service yeah anyone can turn up all library authorities do it not always in every library every week, but some went it by and just half and hour of singing some rhymes with somebody else making a fool of themselves doing the animal noises isn't then you just throwing in them before you know you have got a huge repertuar of things with animal noises those are very productive.
Estelle Matthews: Well it is a very encouraging and productive job you have got actually.
Liz Attenborough: Yeah it's really interesting.
Estelle Matthews: Keep inspiring parents anyways. Thank you very much for coming in.
Liz Attenborough: Thanks.
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