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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SUMMER 2014 - ISSUE 57 9 Literacy development is believed to begin at birth when very young infants respond to the child directed speech of parents and carers who instinctively use low tones to soothe infants and higher tones to engage with them (Birckmayer, Kennedy, & Stonehouse, 2008). Within the first weeks of life, infants will demonstrate their interest in language by quietening their body movements or turning their heads to listen to the spoken word. During this time infants learn to identify the sounds used in language and then, around 6 months of age, begin to respond in turn, using more sophisticated canonical babbling such as 'baba' or 'didi' (Birckmayer, Kennedy, & Stonehouse, 2008). While the speech of the infant may be limited to about 10 words at around 15 months of age, their understanding of words is far greater, and in the months that follow the words which the child can say increase to around 100 (Birckmayer, Kennedy, & Stonehouse, 2008). As children's ability to comprehend what is being said increases they become more able to follow and give instructions themselves. By the time children are 2 years old they become able to express their wishes with more clarity by combining two or more words into short sentences such as, "Go outside" . It is also about this age when children begin to demonstrate evidence of symbolic thought (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010), that is, they are able to think abstractly and create in their mind something which is not in front of them. This is evident when toddlers begin to engage in role-play, such as pushing a block along the floor pretending it is a vehicle. As children develop they will also be able to think abstractly and, in the case of the block truck, be able to solve the problems the truck encounters during the play scenario.This symbolic development is essential if children are to understand that symbols have meaning. It is also during the toddler years that children start to develop their ability to narrate stories (Birckmayer, Kennedy, & Stonehouse, 2008).They verbalise, or through play experiences, recreate or recount, with increasing detail, events which they have experienced. If we are to look at individual events within the day of a young child, their days are rich in 'stories'. For example, a child sitting in a small sandpit pretending to have a bath is recounting this event from life and through this reflection developing the ability to tell a story. Photographing play experiences and placing photos in a book enables children and parents/caregivers to recall and recount prior experiences. Sitting with a child and talking about these pictures will help develop the understanding that the narrative within a story is linked to the pictures. These opportunities for reflection and retelling will also promote shared role-play amongst peers who recognise the environment within a story. By the time children engage in shared role-play experiences they are already becoming skilled communicators. Engaging with peers in play helps children to develop the skills for entering and exiting a conversation, an understanding of how to make oneself heard within a group and provides practice for applying the cultural mores used within their society (Makin, Diaz, & McLachlan, 2007). If we observe the negotiations which take place to create a dramatic play scenario, we can see the strengths which children already possess and their growing communication competence.
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015