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Big Vocabularies for Little Children

Families are Crucial to Infant Language Development

Gloria Osborne, Tammy Steele, Rosa Lira and Lori Cady, Make Way for Books,

at Opening Minds Conference, Chicago 2019.

While educators and publishers have become extremely proficient at designing curricula and teaching little children decoding skills through phonics, we are not nearly as effective at teaching the language comprehension necessary to understanding what children have decoded. This job has been left to families.

Over one hundred professional early childhood educators joined us at Opening Minds USA 2019 Conference on Friday, February 8, to tackle the problem of how to support families in their role as a child’s first language teacher. Professionals from Arizona to Saskatchewan practiced using the conversation starters in The Gift of Words: How Do Children Learn to Talk? We searched websites like and for videos of parents using say-what-you-see techniques to build vocabulary when their children are playing. We shared ways to tie classroom curriculum to what parents are doing at home.

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