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May 15, 2010

New research - Talking seriously with children is important for their language development

Lotte_website.jpgNew research by Lotte Henrichs of the University of Amsterdam shows that the way adults approach children aged 3 to 6 years during conversations has a major influence on their language acquisition. The more that adults address children as fully-fledged conversation partners, the more likely it is that the children will acquire the kind of language they need at school - the ability to understand instructions, demonstrate their knowledge in an efficient manner, and use and understand abstract words and complex sentence structures.

The extent to which the language children need at school (academic language) is used at home was found to differ strongly between families. An essential aspect is how parents approach their children during conversations. If children are given the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to conversations, they often use characteristics of academic language proficiency naturally. In addition to this, the knowledge of academic language depends on the extent to which parents read to their children, tell them stories and hold conversations about interesting subjects.

This research seems to indicate that we should not be dumbing down our language too much when talking with children and we should engage children in conversations as equal partners.

Click here to see an overview of the research and to order a copy of Lotte Henrichs' dissertation.

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