See Spot Run! Give Your Child a Reading Boost with Kids’ Games
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have long known that early intervention with speech therapy techniques is critical for encouraging the best possible outcome for children with speech disorders. This is particularly true for youngsters with autism; they typically progress more with speech and language when they receive early and intense therapies. And parents everywhere have also long known that encouraging kids – even those without speech delays or disorders – to read early and often is ideal for language development. But teaching kids to read has progressed just a tad since the popular Dick and Jane series with its ubiquitous catchphrase, “See Spot run!” (Did you know that Spot was originally a cat when the series was first published in the 1930s?) Now, researchers are adding further proof to the idea of using kids’ games to encourage early literacy and language development.
Research on Kids’ Games and Language
“The ability to recognize the form of the language is something that researchers know is important for early reading development,” said Senior Lecturer Ulrika Wolff. Along with Professor Jan-Eric Gustafsson, Wolff is leading the project to evaluate language development in kids and the effects of kids’ games on reading abilities. The study is an ongoing, three-year project at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
The researchers are building upon past studies that show that kids’ language development can be accelerated with structured language games. The past studies examined children around the age of six. These researchers are evaluating kids as young as four.
The study involves 370 kids in eight different municipalities. Their special education teachers and preschool teachers are also involved in the research. The kids are divided into three groups, including one control group. One group of youngsters participates in intense phonological training for 25 minutes per day for six weeks. The second group receives alternative language training. The control group of kids does not receive any specialized training. The kids receiving phonological training with language games repeat their six-week training period for a total of three years of training. During the third year, all three of the groups will receive “phonological training within the framework of the regular preschool work.”
Although the study is ongoing, the researchers have noted some preliminary conclusions. The children who received intense phonological training with structured games displayed an immediate benefit in terms of language acquisition. These same kids still showed the same benefits when they were evaluated a year after the initial evaluation.
Specifically, the researchers noted that their phonological awareness was accelerated, and that they were capable of identifying speech sounds, as well as manipulating them. Even after the study reaches the three-year mark, the researchers will continue to keep tabs on the kids as they enter school and begin to learn to read and write. The researchers hope to determine whether the control group will progress to the same level of functioning as the group that received training.
Hopefully, when the researchers announce the conclusion of the study, they will also disclose the exact type of kids’ games they used to promote language development and reading skills. That info is currently unavailable; however, you can always consult your child’s speech therapist for at-home speech therapy techniques. In the meantime, there are two important takeaways from this study:
- Exposing your child to as much language as possible as early as possible will always be beneficial
- The researchers based their study on 25 minutes of training per day. That’s doable! And replicable! If you haven’t started reading with your child on a daily basis, it’s never too late – or too early – to start.