Speech, Language & Literacy: Are They Connected?
The simple answer? Yes!
Speech and language are actually two of the foundational building-blocks for pre-literacy and literacy skills.
Speech Sound Development & Literacy
In order to develop phonological awareness (i.e., the ability to understand how sounds go together in words), a child needs a functioning speech sound repertoire. That is, they need to understand the difference between sounds and how they are produced in their own speech before they can understand them on paper. When children have difficulty producing certain sounds, this can translate into difficulty with sound-letter correspondence as they begin to learn to read. For example, if a child has trouble hearing and producing the difference between /L/ and /W/, they might struggle to understand how to translate those sounds to written letter formats!
Language & Literacy
Receptive and expressive language (i.e., understanding and producing language) are foundational skills needed for literacy development. In addition to the acquisition of individual sounds and syllables, language involves a child’s ability to understand and use a wide range of vocabulary, morphological structures (e.g., plural -s, past-tense -ed), and sentence types (e.g., asking and answering questions), which are all needed for effective communication. Children who have language delays may produce a more limited vocabulary, have difficulty following directions, or struggle to communicate their thoughts/ideas to others. This can have significant influence on their ability to understand and produce written words/sentences and comprehend what they read.
Early intervention is key! If your child has difficulty with any area of speech or language, it is not unlikely that they may have difficulty with reading down the road. It’s never too early to be thinking about literacy, so don’t hesitate to ask your child’s speech-language pathologist, teachers, and other support personnel about making a plan of action for reading.