Reading and Language Development 

So how does reading and language development go together? Well...they go hand in hand! Without language, one can not read! But, per usual, there is a little more to the story ;)

For ease of explaining, we are going to break down how each language skill affects reading development

Expressive/Receptive Vocab & Reading 

Early language skills such as receptive and expressive vocabulary and grammar skills are the building blocks for reading comprehension.

Quick side note for some readers: reading comprehension is how one understands what he/she reads (not the actual decoding part).

A child needs vocabulary and grammar skills to understand the content of what he/she is reading. If a child has a good grasp on vocabulary words and how to relate them together (solid vocab learning), he/she has a strong understanding of words and how language can be used to express ideas.

If a child has a delay in receptive or expressive language skills, he/she is at risk for later reading difficulties. That is just another reason WHY early intervention for speech and language abilities is so important.

Articulation, Phonological Awareness & Learning How To Read

Articulation or speech sound development is obviously very important for learning how to read (decoding).

By decoding (disclaimer - I may not use reading terminology perfect since it isn't my area of expertise!), I mean learning that letters represent sounds and letters can be put together to make words. I apologize if that is the worst definition of learning how to read, but you get the point.

Moving on...

A child needs a strong representation of speech sounds, be able to make those sounds, and then be able to use those sounds to complete phonological awareness tasks. 

*Side note - Phonological awareness is the ideas that words can be broken down into smaller units such as syllables & sounds

Phonological awareness tasks such as breaking words into syllables, rhyming, or deleting syllables are important pre-literacy skills and can be a reliable indicator for later reading abilities.

Narrative Structure & Reading Comprehension

Ah, my favorite section. I love working on narrative structure because it can make a huge impact academically and socially.

Narrative structure is the typical flow or schematic of a story. Most oral language and written stories follow a similar pattern. This pattern may also be called story grammar or story structure. They all mean the same thing. 

A child with strong narrative structure skills will start to fill their out their mental schema (who, what, where, what happened, feelings and resolution) as he/she reads. He/she will be expecting the next section to appear as the story goes on. This will aid in recall of the story, comprehension, being able to identity main ideas vs details, and being able to retell the story. 

If a child has trouble with narrative structure, their reading comprehension will suffer. They will have a hard time recalling events, answering questions, or being able to analyze the story further. 

Writing and Language Development

We might as well talk about writing here too! Now, when I say writing, I am not talking about how to make the letters. I have NO IDEA how to teach that and rely on my ever so talented teachers and occupational therapists.

When I talk about writing, I'm talking content. If a child can't express an idea due to expressive/receptive language delays, he or she won't be able to write it down! Only makes sense if you think about it. You need the oral language first before you can think about writing it!

FUNCTIONAL Games: Using Narrative Structure! 

You can multi-task with these reading and language development games using narrative structure. 

Knowing narrative structure or story grammar will improve your child's reading abilities as well as your child's oral language abilities (expressive language).

Below I outlined one game that can be played in the car or anywhere and one card game. 

Who is in the car?

This game is an imaginative story game that can be played anywhere. The purpose is to have fun, create stories using story grammar, and in turn, improve oral language and reading skills! Easy!

How To Play:

While driving or on a walk, someone points to a car or house. That person is the story teller! The story teller has to create the setting, problem, and ending or you can take turns creating each part.

1. Setting: Give the background details

  • Who is in the car?
  • Where are they going?
  • When is it happening?

The story teller has to create the setting: place, time, characters. (If you and your children are just learning this game, ask your child the questions above to help create the setting.)

2. Problem: Someone yells uh-oh and the storyteller has to make up a problem.

  • What is the problem?
  • How do they feel?
  • How are they going to fix it?
  • What are the attempts to fix it? (min. of 2)

Again, you may have to initially ask your child these questions if he or she is leaving a part out of the story. Or, you can help each other tell the story by taking turns. 

3. Resolution: The end

  • What happened in the end?
  • How do they feel?

The end follows the same pattern as above!

Want more information, check out our FREE ebook, How to Read to Your Toddler. It's awesome :)

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Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference.

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