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two preschool teachers doing a read aloud for a group of young kids

From Babbling to Books: Building Pre-Reading Skills

In this webcast, Todd R. RisleySharon Landesman Ramey, and Julie Washington discuss research-based strategies for developing language and pre-reading skills in young children.

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Program description

Young children who perform better than their peers in reading do so for several reasons, but one of the most overlooked is this — lots of family talk. Far too many young children come to school with poor oral language skills because they just don’t know enough words. The good news is that helping a young child is simple. By engaging kids in rich stories and having meaningful conversations with them, you— as a parent or a daycare provider or a preschool teacher — can help improve their oral language skills, which will eventually help them become better readers.

This 60-minute webcast stresses the importance of working with young children early to develop language and pre-reading skills. It will provide adults who work with young children with research-based strategies that can help lay the foundation for building strong readers.

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This free webcast is made possible by funding from Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company.


Todd R. Risley is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Alaska and former professor of human development and senior scientist of the Bureau of Child Research at the University of Kansas. He is the co-author of Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children and Learning to Talk.

Sharon Landesman Ramey is the director of the Center for Health and Education at Georgetown University. Drs. Sharon and Craig Ramey are widely considered to have done the most extensive work to date on what permanently enhances development in young children. Their numerous studies have shown dramatic gains in learning and accomplishment as the result of nurturing care in early childhood.

Julie Washington is a professor in the department of audiology and speech language pathology at Wayne State University. Her research focus is language development and language disorders in African American children at the time of school entry and emergent literacy skills of high-risk preschoolers.

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Discussion questions

  1. Describe, in your own words, the relationship between family talk and school-age literacy.
  2. Discuss the barriers to family talk that might exist for the families with whom you work.
  3. Create a list of simple, low cost activities you would recommend to these families that support oral language growth.
  4. Share with your group some of your favorite books for reading aloud to children. What makes those books your favorites? Describe the reactions of the children when you read your favorites.