Developing Literacy From Childhood

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Building both communication skills and confidence must start from a young age.

By Fiona Walker

It is easy to be entertained by YouTube and be captivated by messages and posts, but these do not develop the language and communications skills we hope for in successful, confident communicators – people who can influence with ideas and imagination”.

“Language is caught not taught” is true for both babies and children. If there is one skill we want to pass on, it is the ability to communicate with confidence.

Building both communication skills and confidence can start from a young age. In fact, our early experiences often determine whether we feel we have something worthy to say, and whether we have the communications skills to do so effectively.

Communication skills are made up of three components.

First, there’s self-esteem.

How you feel about yourself and the thoughts that run through your head have a direct impact on how you communicate. A child who knows he is valued and loved is more likely to share his thoughts and express feelings than a child who often receives a negative reaction to his behaviour.  

Next, there’s non-verbal communication.

We communicate our feelings, thoughts and interests in nonverbal ways. This includes much of what we consider to be good manners. For example, we make eye contact when we listen, and we nod or make small noises to show interest in what is happening and what is being said.

Then, there is verbal communication.

This starts at birth, when a baby realizes that they will be fed when they cry. From then on, the baby watches your face and eyes, then attempts to copy the noises you make. As children develop verbal communication from the people they are exposed to, it is important to remember that they will use the language they hear. For this reason, it is important to not only speak, but also read to your child.

Developing literacy from childhood comes with exposing children to good books.

Reading teaches children good sentence structures, rich vocabulary and emotive language. They develop an understanding of structure and sequence by listening to stories. At the same time, they nurture the ability to listen, focus on print and concentrate. They also develop an ability to multitask physically and cognitively, which are critical skills for reading success.

Reading a wide variety of books to children also exposes them to stories and language far beyond what they can read themselves. Millions of children around the world would have been transported to the magical world of Harry Potter long before they could read the books themselves. Don’t stop reading to a child just because they have started to read independently. They can be read to well into their teens, being exposed to complex language and ideas.

The more literate a child gets, the better he or she will be able to express their thoughts and ideas. As children grow up and begin to want to make an impact and positive impression, the success of this often boils down to how well they can communicate.

To enable our children to grow up into eloquent, expressive adults, we must ensure that their exposure to good language models, positive experiences and rich literature is a constant in their lives. It is easy to be entertained by YouTube and be captivated by messages and posts, but these do not develop the language and communications skills we hope for in successful, confident communicators – people who can influence with ideas and imagination.

What does well is written stories, poetry and prose, as well as the chance to discuss the ideas and emotions such language can evoke.


Fiona Walker is Group Managing Director at Julia Gabriel Education, Singapore’s premier provider of creative communications programmes. She is a strong advocate of ensuring that children receive the best possible early education, and believes that the quality of a child’s connections helps develop positive self-esteem and lifelong learning.

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