Seminal theories and studies of reading describe an inextricable link between language development and reading achievement (e.g., Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley, 1995; Gough and Tunmer, 1986; Hoover and Gough, 1990; Johnston and Kirby, 2006; Joshi and Aaron, 2000; Tunmer and Hoover, 1993; Vellutino et al., 2007). Early oral language competencies predict later literacy (Pearson and Hiebert, 2010). Not only do young children with stronger oral language competencies acquire new language skills faster than students with poorly developed oral language competencies (Dickinson and Porche, 2011), but they also learn key literacy skills faster, such as phonemic awareness and understanding of the alphabetic principle (Cooper et al., 2002). Both of these literacy skills in turn facilitate learning to read in kindergarten and first grade. By preschool and kindergarten listening and speaking abilities have long-term impacts on children’s reading and writing abilities in third through fifth grade (Lee, 2011; Nation and Snowling, 1999; Sénéchal et al., 2006).
Each of the domains of child development and early learning discussed in this chapter can be supported through interventions that involve both the health and education sectors (see also the discussion of continuity among sectors in ). Specific activities include coordinating vision, hearing, developmental, and behavioral screening to facilitate early identification of children with special needs; completing daily health checks; making appropriate referrals and collaborating with the child’s medical home and dental health services; ensuring that immunizations for the entire family and for the early care and education workforce are up to date; modifying and adapting services to meet the individual needs of the child; and providing support to the early care and education workforce to promote more inclusive practices for children with special needs. In addition, teaching and modeling skills in sanitation and personal hygiene will contribute to preventing illness. Furthermore, pediatric health care professionals can make an important contribution by promoting literacy. Extensive research documents the positive impact on early language and literacy development when a pediatric professional gives advice to parents about reading developmentally appropriate books with children as early as 6 months of age (AAP Council on Early Childhood et al., 2014).
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