Talking to a Baby: Day Care Environments

Babysitters and day care providers have an important—and growing—responsibility for children’s early literacy and reading development. They must understand that oral language is fundamental to reading, and they should have frequent one-to-one conversation with babies, maintaining eye contact with them. All day care settings should involve singing songs, reciting nursery rhymes, talking to babies in the course of everyday activity, and repeating back to a baby those “ba ba ba’s” and “ga ga ga’s.” As coos and gurgles give way to real words, caregivers should encourage children to talk, repeating what the child is saying and elaborating for the child when appropriate. (Appropriate language and literacy activities for very young children are featured earlier in this book. See pages 19-37.)

“We don’t drill toddlers with their ABCs. Instead, we create a language-rich environment. We have circle time, when we sing songs and use hand gestures to accompany the words. When I read The Three Little Bears, I don’t just tell stories. I’ll show them three stuffed animals. I’ll find three chairs. When the kids do begin to speak, I try to figure out what they’re saying and repeat it back—even if it’s not entirely comprehensible. I help them understand that language has a lot of power and they can get what they want by using language.”

—Scott Hirose


Queens Child Guidance Center

Therapeutic nursery for children age 0 to 3

Jamaica, New York

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