Add a language to Math if you want your kid to succeed in school

The chances of your child succeeding in reading, friendship, cooperation and basic math in school increase if they bring more skills with then to kindergarten. Perhaps that is the reason that many preschools have kindergarten readiness programmes now. These also act as a motivator for most parents. A research conducted by the University of Washington has found that it is time to add language to that mix of skills. Not only does a child’s use of vocabulary and grammar predict future proficiency with the spoken and written word, it affects performance in other subject areas.

In other words, language supports academic and social success. A lot of other research focusses on math, science and literacy. And they don’t even consider that language could play a role but it emerges as a strong predictor across subject areas. The study was the first one to look at a comprehensive set of school readiness skills and to try to determine which, of all of them, is the most solid predictor of a child’s later success.

Though one can find research on how kids develop specific skills over time, much of that research focusses on patterns of learning within a single subject area like math or reading. Researchers wanted to determine whether there are relationships between skills when considered in combination and to think about how these combined abilities might predict gains, or growth, above what might be expected based on the skills the child demonstrates when they first enter a kindergarten classroom. The team analysed academic and behavioural assessments, assigned standardised scores and looked at how scores correlated in grades 1, 3, and 5. Growth curve modelling allowed the team to look at children’s levels of performance across time and investigate rates of change at specific times in elementary school.

Researchers found of the skills and milestones evaluated – social/ emotional, attention, health, reading, math and language – only language skills, when a child entered school, predicted his or her performance both within that subject area and most others (math, reading and social skills) from first through fifth grade. Reading ability in kindergarten predicted reading, math and language skills later on; and math proficiency correlated with math and reading performance over time.

Reading skills include the ability to decode combinations of letters and sounds to pronounce words as also to comprehend word meanings and contexts. Language is the ability to deploy those words and use complex syntax and grammar to communicate in speech and writing. At a time when so much focus is on math and science education, it is language that deserves attention too.

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