In our fast-moving, media-saturated world, reading with our children and talking with them about what matters is more important than ever before. Strong conversation skills are needed for reading fluency, comprehension, and ability to relate the ideas in a story to yourself and the wider world are the building blocks of imagination, empathy, critical thinking, and creativity—all crucial qualities for success today.
Many of the skills children need to get ready to learn to read are first learned in conversation. Children learn language through face-to-face conversation, not on a device. Vocabulary is the linchpin to literacy and a child who enters school with a robust vocabulary is at a distinct advantage over the child who is word, conversation improvised..
Conversation skills are how we expand our thoughts and deepen our relationship to each other. We are living in a time where the ways we communicate and connect are quickly changing. At greatest risk are children who are in the early stages of developing their emotional and social skills. I worry that Mattel’s Hello Barbie, who speaks and listens, and comes with thousands of prerecorded statements is one more gadget that hurts the rich face to face conversations children need to learn language, impacting their ability to learn to read and become strong readers.
Nothing can replace or replicate the benefits of reading and talking to children. Conversations are where children learn to ask their own questions and find their own answers, it is where they learn to think.
Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turkle reminds us of the importance of conversation, its fragility at present and the consequences of its loss, and how it can be preserved and reinvigorated.