Oral language

How does oral language contribute to reading success?

Oral language is the foundation of all literacy skills. If young children experience rich oral language by talking with and listening to adults and other children, they will have a large ‘bank’ of spoken vocabulary, words they understand when used in spoken communication (see Vocabulary).

Children will have heard and joined in word play and rhyming and be aware of the sounds of English (see Phonological awareness). They will be familiar with lots of different sentence types and understand how language can change in different situations (see Fluency). They will understand that words have meaning, and that we use language to communicate information, ideas, feelings and thoughts (see Comprehension).

What can parents and caregivers do at home to encourage oral language?

Families can support children in their oral language development by providing a variety of opportunities for children to listen and talk for different purposes.

Here are some of the best ways parents and caregivers can encourage oral language:

  • Talk to your child and listen responsively. Ask and answer questions.
  • Read aloud to your child at least once a day. Good books expose children to vocabulary and sentence structures that they won’t hear in everyday situations. Research has shown that reading aloud to children is a major factor in their success in learning to read at school.
  • Talk with your child about the books you read aloud together. Ask your child about the characters, plot or setting; the themes and ideas raised by the book; topics they’d like to read or learn more about as a result of reading aloud.