I have been thinking a lot lately about the power of language. What we choose to say and when can profoundly affect how children see us and, most importantly, see themselves. While I was always aware of this, it has really been highlighted for me in a few ways lately. Professionally, Kristi attended a conference and came back very excited about the work of Peter H. Johnston. I immediately downloaded one of his books to my Kindle and have been engrossed ever since. Personally, my oldest daughter has been struggling with some anxiety and I am learning (slowly, ever so slowly) to use the right words to both hear her and help her navigate life. I am very lucky to have some amazing people on my team to help me walk in her shoes and give me the words I know she needs to hear when they just won't come to me. This post is dedicated to those people who help us find the words; thank you.
Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning - Peter H. Johnston. Wow. This book is fantastic. Reading it is one long series of aha! moments, moments that feel at once so incredibly obvious and so profound as to initiate a major shift in one's practice. This book is set up in such a way as to be easily accessible to all - brand new practicum teacher and seasoned veteran alike. Specific, precise wording is coupled with detailed examples, allowing you to borrow exact phrases ("I see you know how to spell the beginning of that word") or use the examples to build upon your own existing practice. This book is a must read for all, parents and teachers alike.
A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound - John Irving. The power of language is infinitely evident in this book, originally published (unillustrated) as part of Irving's novel A Widow for One Year. The title itself hints at the language play within the book, full of similes and metaphors that would be excellent when teaching writing. If you are looking for a fun, slightly creepy book for the gr. 4-8 crowd, look no further, this is the one.
I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track - Joshua Prince. This book had 3 generations of family members giggling when we read it. Why? Because the rhythm and rhyme are tons of fun. This book is representative of the large category of books that I think too few kids are reading these days - books that play with phonological awareness, books that make playing with language, manipulating the sounds in words, so much fun. The power of fun books like these to help young kids develop their pre-reading skills is immeasurable.
There you have it - three very different takes on the power of language (4 if you count the language I am learning to use with my darling, heart-forward daughter). Language is one of the most important pieces of any culture - how we use it can profoundly affect our children. How do you use language to help your children grow?
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!