Language and Literacy

Speech and Language Therapy Staff
September 4, 2018

Literacy is intimately entwined with speech and language. Reading, essentially, is language. In reading, the speaker and listener don’t directly share in the language experience and the reader must create the context from the written word, while in spoken language, the speaker and listener are more directly connected. Often, a child who has difficulty with reading also demonstrates difficulty with story narration in spoken language.

Connection between language and literacy

Speech, language, and literacy are closely intertwined. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), reading and writing problems may be rooted in a child’s difficulty with language (2001; 2002). For example, a young child’s awareness of sounds and how those sounds go together directly impacts his or her later ability to segment and blend sounds into words. Difficulties with auditory or short-term memory and retrieval of words can make a process, such as learning how to read, extremely taxing. Written language skills, including spelling, may be delayed if a child struggles with spoken language. Reading, speech, and language are all connected, and thus it is often helpful to use a dynamic approach in therapy, with different language and speech modalities to improve language understanding and use (Owens, 2008).

Ideas for supporting literacy development

Many parents ask how they can bolster their child’s literacy skills at home while also preparing him or her for the rigorous reading and writing expectations in school. It can be difficult to squeeze reading into our busy lives, but even a few minutes of literacy here and there can make a world of difference.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Read wherever, whenever. Read early and often. You may find that increasing the amount of time you spend reading with your child may improve not only his or her literacy skills, but overall language skills as well.
  • Read to your child every day, even if for just a few minutes. You may consider spending twenty minutes one-on-one with each child reading every evening after dinner. Another idea is to take a favorite book with you everywhere you go so it is on hand when you have a spare moment to read. Find something that works for you and your family and stick with it.
  • Point out print in the world around you. The world around us is chalk full of words. Opportunities to promote literacy abound! Point out street signs, business names, menus in restaurants, even letters on pet collars to your child. Everyday activities such as driving and grocery shopping can become rich literacy-enhancing experiences.
  • Put a visit to your local library into your weekly routine. Creating a routine that involves going to the library, selecting books, reading books, checking out books, reading those books at home, and returning the books the following week emphasizes the joy of books and reading for pleasure and enjoyment. If your child is older, encourage visiting the local public library and checking out a book pertaining to your child’s personal interests. Help your child fill out the necessary paperwork to get their own personal library card.
  • Create a scavenger hunt. Put together a simple checklist of topics or keywords to look for together during your weekly library visit. It can be as simple as looking out for a designated letter of the day in book titles and signage or as complex as using the catalog system to look for specific topics or authors. If your children are not-yet readers, create a picture scavenger hunt.
  • Expose your children to a wide range of books. Children tend to gravitate towards things that they know. If the only type of books they have seen at the library are picture books, take a trip around the library and look for different types of books. Find the section of non-fiction children’s book and find a book about insects and spiders. Locate the cookbook section and find a cookbook with great pictures of something you might want to make as a family. Go to the young adult section and find appropriate manga that might be fun for your children. Find the travel section and peruse a few books with great photos on a favorite vacation spot.
  • Re-read favorite books. When your children check out books that they enjoy, read and re-read those books throughout the week. Although repetitious reading of the same book can get monotonous for adults, it is vital for children to connect letters with sounds, understand the content, and generalize ideas into daily life. Repetition also supports prediction and anticipation for story elements.

Are you concerned about the development of your child’s language and literacy skills? Contact us to make an appointment with one of our speech-language pathologists.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2001). Roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists with respect to reading and writing in children and adolescents [Position Statement]. Available from

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2002). Knowledge and skills needed by speech-language pathologists with respect to reading and writing in children and adolescents [Knowledge and Skills]. Available from

Owens, Robert, E. (2008). Language Development, 7th Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.


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