Seven Ways to Boost Language Development with Songs and Books
We am thrilled to share tips from guest author and language learning specialist, Piña Madera. Barefoot Books asked her how families can use stories and songs to help children’s budding language skills grow. Here’s what she had to say:
Little brains are doing really BIG work when it comes to learning language. Oodles of research has been done in this area. Here’s what we know:
- Babies are listening even before they’re BORN — as early as 7 months in utero.
- In early childhood (0-6 or so), the brain is uniquely ripe to learn any sounds or accents — this ability diminishes over time.
- Children learn by hearing lots of repetition — and only later do they begin to speak. Long before they speak, children understand.
- Children learn best from a loving caregiver. Language is acquired by listening while watching the mouth move. That’s why mama and dada are some of their first words. Those sounds are made toward the front of the mouth (and heard repeatedly)!
Armed with the knowledge of how kids learn, we can stimulate their little brains in ways that will encourage growth and development — and engaging with your little one using songs is a joyful way to do just that!
Here are 7 ways caregivers can use songs and books to help their children get what they need when it comes to learning languages:
- Find singalong books. Singalong books offer a chance for younger kids to learn with added visuals, and for older children to make the connection between sounds and printed words. By learning the song first, older children will begin naturally reading the words on the page. It is a respected method to boost literacy in young children.
- Choose singalong books and songs that are relevant to your child’s daily experience. Songs about familiar subjects and experiences, like getting ready for the day, resonate strongly with young children. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, which shows 4 children from different cultures getting ready for their day, is a great example. If you’ve recently visited a farm, reinforce the experience by following up with a singalong about farmyard animals, like Driving My Tractor!
- Find songs that utilize pleasant repetition. Babies need repeated input. Find songs that won’t make you crazy while also repeating key words they can use. For example, The Wheels on the Bus has a repeating structure, and refers to moms, dads, children and babies. These are all relevant to a young person’s experience, and the built in repetition is a bonus.
- Follow your child’s lead. Notice how your child responds to different types of music – do they like a reggae beat, a hip-hop thump, or maybe a variety? And don’t forget your own needs; you’re listening, too!
- Take advantage of your child’s unique ability to learn an additional language. Use songs, books and loving caregivers. You don’t need to be multi-lingual yourself – learn together! This is a gift you can give kids – for them it’s much easier to learn language NOW, than in those awkward teenage years! Bilingual books like Bear on a Bike (bilingual with Spanish) and Bear at Home (bilingual with French) are a fantastic introduction to a new language.
- Encourage children to make gestures to represent lyrics. When we move our bodies while learning, we put the learning into longer-term memory. It also helps children to link meaning with sound. For instance, when singing Whole World, making a big sun with arms overhead will help connect the word “sun” to something big and circular. Plus, it’s fun!
- Sing, sing, SING with children! Singing releases stress, brings people together, and is a powerful learning tool. Don’t be shy. Kids don’t care if you’re a little off-key. Just sing! (Believe me – I cannot carry a tune, but I have fun with the sing-a-longs! Laura Jevtich)
*Piña Madera, M.A., has been working as an educator since 1987. She is co-founder, Creative Genius and Research Curator of SingALingo, an award-winning language learning program.
Stefanie Paige Grossman, M.S.Ed Early Childhood Education / Infant & Parent Development Expert Global Program Director, Barefoot Books
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