Talking with Children


A coworker of mine passed along this article today, and I thought it would be valuable to share with all of you. It sheds light on the concept of talking with young children to build their awareness of words and their pre-literacy skills. Many of us likely remember reading about the study wherein it was found that children from lower income families hear, on average, 30 million fewer words than their more affluent counterparts by the age of 3. While that is a disheartening statistic, it did spur Early Literacy specialists to attempt to educate the masses in order to reduce this gap. Quenqua’s article, however, details the conversations that need to be shared with children; it is more important that the conversations be rich and engaging than that they be one way streets filled with meaningless words.

How can we incorporate this idea into our storytimes? There are many ways to incorporate this tip:

  • “As you’re driving or walking down the street, notice the things around you and comment on them. Saying things like ‘The leaves on that tree are red because it’s fall,’ incorporate tangible, common visuals with the words that describe them.”

  • “Playing pretend with your child helps build language skills: have a cup of tea (real or pretend) while having a conversation with your child or pretend to talk on the phone with him/her. These experiences help build narrative and conversational skills.”


A fun idea for a storytime might be to invite participants in for a “caregiver tea” where the children can all experience a storytime and then practice this conversational skill first-hand afterwards. The attendees could be encouraged to dress the part and to bring a tea set (or perhaps have some on hand to share). There are some great books that model these actions that could be read as a part of the storytime to prepare the caregivers for these interactions, as well!

  • Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg

  • Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke

  • Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk

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