Introduction to Language Development

Building a foundation for reading begins at a very early age and goes hand-in-hand with oral language development. From birth, children are immersed in language by the constant communication that goes on around them.


Instruction and assessment have always been linked to the teaching of reading. The recent increase in the assessment of student learning has resulted in a wide array of various reading assessments-from standardized tests, as we noticed in our work with online prep, which make student achievement “easier” to report to the public; to portfolios, collections of student work kept over a period of time; and performance assessments which ask students to perform tasks in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, that they would be expected to do in the “real” world. Additionally, individual reading assessments provide teachers and parents with valuable information for student learning.

In order to assess reading comprehension that is strategic, interactive, engaging, and constructive, reading assessment must also reflect the idea that reading comprehension is a complex process which involves a more in-depth analysis of an individual student’s reading growth. Individual reading assessments, based on early literacy, word identification, and comprehension provide teachers and parents with the most valuable information for individual student learning.

Six Essential Reading Strategies

Researchers have identified six essential reading strategies for developing comprehension abilities. Each strategy and teaching/learning activities which help not only children but also adult students. The six strategies are:

  • Making Connections
  • Questioning
  • Visualizing
  • Inferring
  • Determining Importance
  • Synthesizing

From the cooing and babbling of babies to the two- and three-word sentences of two-year-old’s, to the fairly complex sentences of four-to-five-year-olds, young children’s language usage grows by leaps and bounds in a relatively short span of time. Most children enter school with an amazing command of the language, and the ability to use that language to:

  • Make requests
  • Ask questions
  • Share information
  • Influence others’ behavior
  • Entertain themselves and others

In short, children have learned to communicate effectively.

Talking to and with children develops their receptive and expressive skills using this language. As they refine and extend their language skills, children learn new words, new meanings for familiar words, and new ways of saying things. They develop an awareness of the sounds that make up spoken words and the ability to manipulate those sounds known as phonemic awareness. Adult students benefit from these strategies too.


At the same time, young children gain many important concepts through the interchange of oral language and ideas. The following is quoted from Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success published by the Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council, page 59.

    • Recognizes specific books by the cover.
    • Pretends to read books.
    • Understands that books are handled in particular ways.
    • Enters into a book-sharing routine with primary caregivers.
    • Vocalization play in crib gives way to enjoyment of rhyming language, nonsense work play, etc.
    • Labels objects in books.
    • Comments on characters in books.
    • Looks at a picture in a book and realizes it is a symbol for real object.
    • Listens to stories.
  • Requests/commands adult to read or write.
  • May begin attending to specific print, such as letters in names.
  • Uses increasingly purposeful scribbling.
  • Occasionally seems to distinguish between drawing and writing.
  • Produces some letter-like forms and scribbles with some features of English writing.