Did you know that when you support students in learning to communicate, you also helping them grow their literacy skills? Did you also know that this dynamic works in reverse? It's good news, isn't it?
For a long time (too long, actually), we did not teach a certain subset of students (many of whom were AAC users) to read because we thought that language ability was required in order for literacy instruction to make sense. Now, we know it's not true. In fact, language and literacy are what we call transactional. That means that knowledge in one area supports knowledge in another.
What Does the Research Tell Us?
It turns out that communication and literacy skills develop together (Koppenhaver & Yoder, 1993). Let’s take a look at some everyday examples:
Esme hears her mother say the word skeleton while they discussed grandma's upcoming surgery at the dinner table. She comes across that word in her textbook during her second grade science lesson, then notices what she thinks might be that word printed on the packaging of her brother's Halloween costume. All of these experiences allow her to connect her learning at home with content in the book. She is developing knowledge of the world around her, which she will need to one day read with comprehension!
- Ben loves when somebody reads rhyming books to him. Later, he pays close attention to the the rhyming app he plays on his ipad and begins to articulate made up words that rhyme. He is developing knowledge of words and sounds and how they can be manipulated to form new words. He'll find this ability to manipulate words and sounds is quite handy when he's ready to write on his own!
- Mrs. Jones asks her students to find words on the word wall that share the same ending before they can line up for lunch. This game-based, informal group instruction is meaningful to students who can do this easily but it's also informative Alex, a child with CP who is still developing this understanding. His classmates after all, provide a meaningful scaffold for him as his phonological knowledge emerges. When the class returns from lunch, they can apply this knowledge of common word endings during their free writing period. Mrs. Jones points out that a word that Alex has just composed comes directly from the word wall. Alex is making connections between reading and writing!
It's All Connected
See? It's all related. Both the research and this handful of real-life examples show us that literacy and communication do impact one another. They also remind us that we should not wait to support our students in any domain of reading, writing, listening or communicating because we'll be planting many flowers with one seed. Don't wait! Get started today!