Oral language competence and the transition to school: socio-economic and behavioural factors that influence academic and social success

Pamela Claire Snow

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Oral language competence (skill in everyday talking and listening) is critical in the early years of school in two key respects: it underpins the transition to literacy in the early years, and is the means by which children form and maintain interpersonal relationships in the school setting. In this paper, the role of oral language competence with respect to early academic success is examined in relation to the linguistic demands of making the transition to literacy. Skills such as vocabulary, narrative ability, phonemic awareness, and mastery of syntactic rules have been identified as key in this respect. Socio-economic factors that impact upon language development are also considered, and evidence is presented to highlight the academic vulnerability of children who arrive at school with oral language skills that are not yet sufficiently developed to cross the bridge to literacy. Evidence concerning links between expressive and receptive oral language development and emotional/behavioural adaptation at school is also presented. It is argued that teachers and speech?language pathologists need to collaborate more closely in early-years classrooms and that a policy shift away from early direct reading instruction, in favour of enrichment of oral language skills in the first year of school, would be beneficial to those children in the lower tail of the language curve on school entry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3 - 24
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal on School Disaffection
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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