While research strongly indicates the positive impact of language input by caregivers on children’;s development, not all language appears to be beneficial for a child’;s learning. The use of imperatives and other types of directives that change the focus of child’;s attention were found to be negatively associated with children’;s language development (Cruz et al., 2013; Hoff-Ginsberg, 1998; Rowe, 2008; Topping et al., 2013). This type of language often has the primary goal of controlling or managing a child’;s behavior rather than facilitating child engagement. These directives shut down conversation and do not offer children the opportunity to contribute verbally.
Social interaction is an essential ingredient to language nutrition. The importance of social interaction
paired with linguistic input was a common thread between the studies in this review. Social relationships drive the need for language—it is the basis by which we communicate with others and so it GDC-0032 makes
sense that children depend on social input for language learning. Language learning does not occur passively. Interactions between parents/caregivers and the infant and toddler, built upon responsiveness, emotional tone, guidance and encouragement of joint attention, are posited to have an positive influence on the child’;s language development, controlling for parent education and household income (Dodici et al., 2003; Dunphy-Lelii et al., 2014; Glascoe & Leew, 2010; Lugo-Gil & Tamis-LeMonda, 2008; Masur et al., 2005; Nicely et al., 1999; Poehlmann & Fiese, 2001; Rodriguez & Tamis-LeMonda, 2011; Rollins, 2003; Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2001). Additionally, caregiver speech and actions that encourage verbal responses all invite children to participate in conversation. Thus, caregivers who allow the child to contribute to the discourse in a developmentally expected way, first in attention to the caregiver through communication behaviors such as looks, facial expressions and utterances and later in word approximations, comments and conversation, provide children with the opportunity and modeling needed to promote the child’;s language development. In essence, the impact of rich and varied language nutrition delivered consistently by caregivers in the context of an engaged and trusting adult-child social relationship provides an essential component for the development of language competence that lays the foundation for academic success. Those who are academically prepared and successful are more likely to profit from education and are likely to lead lives characterized by better health (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2009).
Reading and other activities such as storytelling, singing, and teaching letters or numbers offer evidence-based and concrete methods for which caregivers and children can engage in conversation. These activities introduce new and interesting vocabulary, engage the child in word and phrase play, encourage caregiver-child engagement and turn taking, and lead to greater generative language use (Topping et al., 2013). Such activities can have strong and lasting impact on the child’;s cognitive processes and diversity
of language that result in later reading and language proficiency (Buschmann et al., 2009; Farrant & Zubrick, 2013; Tsybina & Eriks-Brophy, 2010; Westerlund & Lagerberg, 2008). Interventions have focused on counseling parents and other caregivers, such as daycare workers and teachers, on features of shared book reading that facilitate children’;s language learning and early literacy skills. These interventions represent a promising and potentially scalable framework for which to increase the quantity and quality of caregiver-child interactions.
In all of the studies that were reviewed, less than 10% considered the contributions of fathers to their child’;s early language and learning environment. While mothers were the most often studied caregiver, fathers and other caregivers are often in the position of providing a cognitively stimulating environment and are key participants in the child’;s learning experiences (Bronte-Tinkew et al., 2008; Yogman et al., 1995). While the findings of studies that have looked at fathers are congruent with those found in studies ex