When Does Literacy Begin?

Today’s news comes to us from an article by Daseta Gray of www.SabreeEducationalServices.com. Daseta is one of our specialists here on Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally. Her article explains the different areas in a child’s brain that must be stimulated for full language development to take place. There is one area for understanding (receptive language), one for speaking and writing (expressive language), and a third for some learning and memory. This article also provides many practical ways to interact with young children so that they will grow well and flourish in all of these areas.

Although this identification of brain lobes is a breakthrough and makes crystal clear much of what is going on in the brain connected with language development, there is no need to worry about remembering which area is which and exactly what happens where. Most important is that parents are the first and most important teachers and role models for their children. As such they need to speak, respond, and provide a rich learning environment right from the start.

Enjoy this article and the wonderful information it provides. We are delighted to present it.

–Dr. Sally

When Does Literacy begin? –Daseta Gray

I listen to the news, read the newspapers and read the research and they are all saying that children in underserved communities can’t read. There are several literacy programs around. The question is when does literacy really begin?

Have you thought about that?

When you look at the domains of the brain there is none for literacy but there is an area for language development. In order for your child to become literate through reading as an infant she must go through the process of language development. Continuing Literacy begins the first day that you bring your baby home. This begins with the “dance”—Being in tune with your baby by reading your baby’s body language and signals that your baby uses to communicate and your response. This begins the process of language development and being in tune with your infant. You should also speak with your baby as you interpret  her brain cues.

In the last ten years neuroscientists have done a tremendous research on brain development in infants currently they are able to tell us the different areas (domains) of the brain that is responsible for different functions. However, you must keep in mind that in order to have a healthy brain all areas must be developed simultaneously.

 Wernicke’s  area – Area   located in the temporal lobe that plays a critical role in the ability to understand meaningful speech.

You should speak with your baby in whole language (use short complete sentences).You should read to your baby daily, reading helps your young infant to develop listening skills, language skills, speech patterns and memory. Age appropriate music is also good for developing your infant’s language skills, memory, patterns with rhythm. Music also introduces your infant to other cultures and teaches your infant to follow directions. You should play children’s music that have clear speech this allows your baby to hear and respond; songs that give instruction such as “clap hands” your baby will be able to do because you have been doing the motion with her.

Broca’s area –structure located in the frontal lobe of the brain that controls the production of spoken and written language

Once your infant is mobile you should have a bin of age appropriate books on the floor, this will give your baby the opportunity to expand her vocabulary. She should also have developmental toys. You should interact with her but also allow her to interact with her toys alone. Infants love to put items in and pour them out. Provide a container that will allow for this activity and you should introduce in and out, “wow!  Claudette, you put the cup in the buck.”  Language development must begin the first day that you bring your baby home.

Temporal lobe – part of the brain located above the ears that is responsible for hearing, speech, and some learning and memory.

Infants/toddlers love repetition because this is the way they learn. You should play the same songs over a period of time and you will observe that your infant will know what comes next. You want to develop their memory skill. Keep in mind that the areas of the brain that do not get developed during 0-3 years old will create a problem later. It is very difficult to return back to developmental stages that were missed, look at them as building blocks; when you build a house you need the foundation before building the walls. With an infant it’s the same concept.

When you don’t develop the areas I mentioned it could very well become a major issue when your toddler arrives at school. The lack of certain skills becomes a special need problem and will have your four year old very frustrated.

In order for your child to become literate, the ability to write and read language, the language center of the brain must be developed during the 0 to 3 years old. When you are born your brain is 25% developed and by the time you are 5 years old it is 95% developed.


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  1. What interesting, useful information. Knowing and understand how language development works really helps parents make wiser decisions in those early years regarding where to put their attention an how to best communicate with their baby and toddler. Thanks so much for this!

  2. It’s so important that every parent in the world understands how his or her interaction with their child plays a critical part in brain development. When we know better, we can do better. As a mental health consultant to early childhood programming, I appreciate the impact this kind of information has on parents and children. Thanks for sharing!

    Wendy =)

  3. Here is a comment sent in by Suzanne, a reading specialist –

    This is all technical…as a parent all I want to know is, what can I do, right? Exactly what the article says, read to your child, tell stories, speak naturally, encourage conversation and dialogue about stories…is this the only foundation to literacy? No…there are other basic skills like the ones mentioned above. But as a parent we can only worry about so much and the best thing to do is HAVE FUN with your child and never make reading/literacy feel like a chore.

    You hit the nail on the head. All the technical stuff is fine, but the truth is that parents long ago knew just what to do by instinct. Once we are free to listen to that instinct and create, all the right loving and fun interactions return.

    Thank you so very much for taking the time to write to us.

    • I love the comments. They are great. Suzanne I am not sure if you are aware that many infants/toddlers do not see a book, have a story read to them or hear developmental music until they get to formal school. Therefore many of them get to kindergarten and lacks social, emotional and cognitive readiness.
      Last year an organization in the community had free books to give away and was not able to give all of them away.
      I would like you to Google this article and share your thoughts:
      Before a Test, a Poverty of Words.

      We do community discussion regarding the need for quality care for infants toddlers. This is a big problem. Too many children get to kindergarten, and they are not ready. I would love to see the comments from some of your contacts.

  4. Hi Daseta,

    It’s me again. Since I took the liberty to submit Suzanne’s comment, I will now take the liberty to go ahead and explain it further. Suzanne fully believes in the “R, S, & T” of parenting–Read, Sing, and Talk to your child as much as you can. No one disputes this necessity.

    However, her true idea, and one that I totally agree with, is that once we remove some of the complications and pressures of daily life today, rich or poor, parents will be able to return to their natural state of loving their child and provide for their babies and toddlers what they need. Only when free of major difficulties that steal time and resources will parents be able to return to nature’s gift and openly shower their little ones with all the reading, singing, and talking that they want, need and deserve.

    About the technical part, it is a plus to know that different brain areas are stimulated in different ways, but it is even better to know that just the basics of reading, singing and talking will go to all the right places and do the right things. That is the best part of all.

    • Sally I totally agree . I do classes for caregivers of 0-3 yrs Baby and Wee and last month I was at an event and was there with his baby . I gave him one of my business cards and told him about the class . I also asked him if he has been reading to the baby ,his response was ” the baby is only six months she does not understand “. This is the thought process of too many in some communities.

      When we do class we have a picture of the brain that is labeled and we discuss how different parts of the brain is stimulated with different activities and we explain the brain is like a cable box all areas (wires) must be stimulated in order for you to have a healthy brain.

      Sally the challenge is if a caregiver has time with their infant/toddler but lacks the knowledge of how to stimulate the brain it defeats the purpose . In our classes we show caregivers activities that you can do at home with infants/toddlers.
      I usually explain to participants that is not the amount of time that you spend but what you do within the time with your infant/toddler makes the difference. Knowing what you can do makes a difference. I love the conversation . Have a great day guys.

  5. I love the conversation too. Daseta, I am so happy to have found you, someone who both teaches and practices so many of the same things that I have been teaching and practicing for many years.

    The brain image you present to parents is excellent… and so are the many activities that you teach parents how to do.

    “Every minute, every hour, and every day in the life of a child counts, and there is not a moment to waste.”

    • Hi Musa,
      Thank you very much for your nice note! Daseta is a wonderful professional, and I love networking with her. With all this chaos going on now, we have to be especially careful with our little ones, birth to age three. Their foundation of experiences will last forever. I very much appreciate your reaching out.

  6. Musa M Chorr

    I am so proud of you twin sisters. This one is the most important foundation that needs to be considered. Both government and non government organizations can also do very very important networking to help Africans too. I am from GAMBIA in west Africa.

  7. Here is how Daseta said it:
    “In order for your child to become literate, the ability to write and read language, the language center of the brain must be developed during the 0 to 3 years old. When you are born your brain is 25% developed and by the time you are 5 years old it is 95% developed.”
    There are five areas of development that take place during these early years–cognitive, motor, social, language and self-esteem. There are also 200 sequenced “play-and-learn” activities that were designed to promote development in all five areas from birth to age three. You can find these in “Fun Baby Learning Games” by Sally Goldberg, Ph.D. I wrote this book for parents to have quick and easy information about their baby, toddler or two-year-old and how to make the most of their time together during each age and stage.

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