A Note from Marybeth
“All that I know is what I have words for.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein
I am proud to declare myself a logophile – a true lover of words. This affection for words started at a young age, my being the youngest of five. Our home was quite lively, and frequently there was some misdeed that no one would admit to. My mother, ever the detective, would start her interrogation with “Who committed this malfeasance?” Her tone of voice conveyed the meaning; a dictionary was not necessary. At the time I thought her goal was to find the perpetrator, but now I wonder if she wasn’t also using this regular event in family life to share her love of language. My mother knew then what researchers have since confirmed: children develop vocabulary through exposure and, in our family’s case, repetition.
We think of vocabulary development as a “school-based” activity. But it is not limited to traditional vocabulary instruction. Children, especially preschoolers, are absorbing language all the time. The use of language is a child’s means of conveying his or her needs and learning to maneuver within the world. From the early “no” of a one-year-old, to the complicated negotiating and nuances of communications with adolescents, our children are acquiring and using language skills.
We know the importance of wide reading to children, but every experience can be a teachable moment for language. Think of the opportunities a trip to the grocery store brings! There are fruits and vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colors, waiting to be named and described. A mundane errand to the hardware store can deepen knowledge about the names and utility of tools and the occupations of those who use them.
Renowned educator and author Priscilla Vail described language using the Victorian expression passepartout, or key to universal access. She asserted that both possessing and being skilled in using language will unlock the doors of information acquisition, accessing background knowledge and experiences, and the ability to be successful both today and in the future. It was important to my mother that her children acquired those capabilities; therefore, she was deliberate in her use of language with us. Because we at Neuhaus are dedicated to better readers and brighter futures, we, too, believe in the importance of unlocking those doors. Help us by talking to a child.
Marybeth Flachbart, Ed.D.
President and CEO