Friends of the Truckee Library: ‘Mind in the Making:’ Communicating
Truckee Children's Services Librarian
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth is a series, search sierrasun.com, Rinne, for previous installments
TRUCKEE, Calif. – It seems almost magical a newborn, unable to understand or use a single word, will in a few short years know thousands of words. And yet, while language is among our greatest capacities, it is also a weakness for many. When employers were asked about the most important general skills and competencies they look for in new hires that often fall below expectations, there was remarkable uniformity in employers’ top two concerns: Spoken communication skills and written communication skills.
So what happens between the time children are born and time when many enter the workforce lacking these basic skills? According to “Mind in the Making” author Ellen Galinsky, not only do children need to acquire the tools of language – the ability to comprehend, speak and read words – but then they need to learn to use those tools with power and precision. It’s the third essential life skill, after focus/self control and perspective taking.
Not surprisingly, there is overlap between each of the life skills covered so far. Once again, the executive functions of the brain, as governed by the prefrontal cortex, come in to play. Communicating well involves reflecting upon the goal of what we want to communicate and inhibiting our point of view so we can understand the viewpoints of others. Communicating involves much more than understanding language, speaking, reading and writing – it is the skill of determining what one wants to communicate and realizing how our communications will be understood by others.
Galinsky reviews the voluminous research findings and shares the early childhood practices most predictive of children’s language and literacy skills acquisition. 1. While reading books or talking at the dinner table, parents talk about issues that go beyond the here and now. 2. Parents use a sophisticated vocabulary. 3. There is support for children’s literacy: Book and literature-rich environment where parents read to children regularly and provide pencils, paper and crayons and encourage children to write.
Galinsky also provides a plethora of detailed suggestions to help promote communicating with children. Space constraints prevent me from doing more than a cursory listing of suggestions, but the book provides much detail about each one: Create an environment at home where words, reading and listening are important. Narrate your children’s experiences with parent-talk, parent-look, and parent-gesture. Use extra talk and talk that goes beyond the here and now. Tie your talk to what is interesting to children. Tell stories about your life and ask your children to tell stories about theirs. Read, read, and read some more with your child (a librarian’s favorite!). Play with word sounds. Encourage your children to write. Select early childhood programs where communication skills are emphasized. Give children access to many forms of media communication. Continue to promote the skills of focus and self-control. Emphasize effective communication in school-age children. Next time: Making connections.
Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave., 530-582-7846, mynevadacounty.com/library