Using Language to Learn

This article describes how preschoolers learn language from their parents.

language awareness 85What Do Preschoolers Do?

  • Listen to stories and to conversations.
  • Talk to adults and to other children in complex sentences.
  • Master many rules of grammar.
  • Make up silly words and stories.
  • Use language to think, to share ideas and feelings, and to learn new things.
  • Enjoy the same books over and over and look at new books.
  • Retell familiar stories to themselves and others.
  • Think about what the characters in a book might feel or do.
  • Draw and write with pencils, crayons, and markers.
  • See print around them and watch adults read and write.
  • Imitate adult writing by scribbling.
  • Copy shapes and some letters.

How Do Preschoolers Learn?
Gina bounces out of bed and hurries to the kitchen. She opens the cabinet, takes out a box of cereal, then puts it back. She takes out another box and says, "Grandpa, this is my cereal. It has a big P and lots of stars."

Grandpa says, "That's good thinking." Gina points to a letter on the box, "That's a P." She traces the letter in the air and says, "P as in Peter. Peter's name starts with a P. It's on his cubby."

Grandpa makes an offer. "Today, we can have our regular story time and then write together. I need to write a letter to a friend. You can write, too."

Gina puts her empty bowl in the sink and runs to find her mother. "Mom, I'm gonna read and write with Grandpa." Her mother says, "That sounds like fun. When I take you to family child care, I'll tell Ms. Jenkins that you like to write. You can write at her house and at home."

Like many preschoolers, Gina is learning language:

  • She knows that letters (the P) and pictures (the stars) have meaning.
  • She knows there is a P on her cereal box and at the beginning of Peter's name.
  • She knows that people take turns when talking to each other.

Gina's family helps her learn about language:

  • They have a regular story time every day.
  • Grandpa encourages her thinking, so Gina continues exploring the letters on the box.
  • Grandpa offers to write with Gina.
  • Mom talks to Ms. Jenkins, so that Gina can write at family child care and at home.

Source: America Reads Challenge: Ready*Set*Read for Families

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