Another adorable video is making the rounds in cyberspace, this time of a young French girl with an imaginative retelling of A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh.” (An aside: The original “Winnie the Pooh” ranks as one of my all-time favorite children’s books.) This video, like the babbling twins video, seems to offer another vivid example of language and literacy development. So I sent it to Betty Bardige, author of “Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development,” to see what she thought. Here’s what she shared:
“For many children, mastery of their first language — at about age 3 — coincides with an explosion of creativity. We can certainly see that here. Unbound by logic or reality, but drawing upon a rich vocabulary and a large stock of storybook plots, characters, and phrases, the child in the video spins an original tale full of magic and danger, with a safe and satisfying ending. She tells this tale to an encouraging listener who conveys an appreciation of her imaginative powers with gasps and oohs in response to the scary and exciting parts of the story and supplies a new vocabulary word when the child requests it.
“It’s obvious from this clip that the child who tells the story has had lots of supportive experience with language. Most likely, she attends an ‘école maternelle’ [See “When in France…”], a public preschool with teachers whose pay and education are similar to those of elementary school teachers, as almost all French 3- and 4-year-olds do. Quite likely she also had the benefit of high quality child care as an infant and toddler — the majority of young children in France are cared for in publicly supported crèches while their parents work.
Clearly, the adults in her life encourage her language and storytelling and read many, many stories with her. From the clip, we can tell that she knows ‘Winnie the Pooh,’ ‘The Lion King,’ and fairy tales and fantasies involving magical powers, swords and shields. Her rich vocabulary suggests that she has not only heard many stories, but that she has been hearing rich, descriptive, playful language from family and teachers since babyhood. Her confident communication and ability to keep the story going for quite a long time show that she is used to talking and being listened to. Along with vocabulary and storybook reading, she has clearly received lots and lots of encouragement and love.
“The child in the video is lucky. With her imaginative and conversational strengths, she is likely to be a popular preschool playmate. The storybooks she enjoys are relatively sophisticated, as are the questions she asks. Thus her language facility will expand at a rapid rate — she’ll get more and richer learning opportunities than will children who haven’t had her enriching experiences. When it comes to language, the rich tend to get richer. If we want all of our children to be good readers by third grade and to consume (and create) books and stories with the zest this little girl shows, then we need to make sure that they, too, get a steady diet of language-rich conversation, encouragement and ‘play talk’ — in infancy and throughout their preschool and early school years.”