Investigating the role of language in children's early educational outcomes
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Roulstone, S., Law, J., Rush, R., Clegg, J. & Peters, T. (2011) Investigating the role of language in children's early educational outcomes, , , no. 63, , Bristol
Most children develop speech and language skills effortlessly, but some are slow to develop these skills and then go on to struggle with literacy and academic skills throughout their schooling. It is the first few years of life that are critical to their subsequent performance. This project looks at what we know about the early communication environment in a child's first two years of life, and the role this plays in preparing children for school using data from a large longitudinal survey of young people (ALSPAC - the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). It examines the characteristics of the environment in which children learn to communicate (such as activities undertaken with children, the mother's attitude towards her baby, and the wider support available to the family) and the extent to which this affects a child's readiness for school entry (defined as their early language, reading, writing, and maths skills that they need in school). Key Findings: - There is a strong association between a child's social background and their readiness for school as measured by their scores on school entry assessments covering language, reading, maths and writing. - Language development at the age of 2 years predicts children's performance on entry to primary school. Children's understanding and use of vocabulary and their use of two or three word sentences at 2 years is very strongly associated with their performance on entering primary school. - The children's communication environment influences language development. The number of books available to the child, the frequency of visits to the library, parents teaching a range of activities, the number of toys available, and attendance at pre-school, are all important predictors of the child's expressive vocabulary at 2 years. The amount of television on in the home is also a predictor; as this time increased, so the child's score at school entry decreased. - The communication environment is a more dominant predictor of early language than social background. In the early stages of language development, it is the particular aspects of a child's communication environment that are associated with language acquisition rather than the broader socio-economic context of the family. - The child's language and their communication environment influence the child's performance at school entry in addition to their social background. Children's success at school is governed not only by their social background; the child's communication environment before their second birthday and their language at the age of two years also have a strong influence.