The Beginning Years (Birth Through Preschool)
Even in the first few months of life, children begin to experiment with language. Young babies make sounds that imitate the tones and rhythms of adult talk, they “read” gestures and facial expressions, and they begin to associate sound sequences they frequently hear – words – with their referents. They delight in listening to familiar jingles and rhymes, play along in games such as peek-a-boo and pattycake, and manipulate objects like board books and alphabet blocks in their play. From these remarkable beginnings, children learn to use a variety of symbols. In the midst of gaining facility with these symbol systems, they acquire the insight, through interactions with others, that specific kinds of marks – print – can also represent meanings. At first, children will use the physical and visual cues surrounding print to determine what something “says.” But as they develop an understanding of the alphabetic principle, they will begin to process letters, to translate them into sounds, and to connect this information with a known meaning. Although it may seem as though some children acquire these understandings “magically” or “on their own,” studies (Anbar, 1986; Durkin, 1966) suggest that they are the beneficiaries of considerable, though playful and informal, adult guidance and instruction.
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