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Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, Volume I, Wellbeing in Children and Families by Cary L. Cooper, Susan H. Landry

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6

Parents' Role in Infants' Language Development and Emergent Literacy

Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Rufan Luo and Lulu Song

New York University, U.S.A.

One of the most compelling questions on early development concerns how infants transition from prelinguistic babblers to relatively savvy consumers and users of words and sentences in a span of only a few years. We share with a long history of scholars the view that the remarkable feat of learning language is the outcome of a reciprocal, collaborative process. Infants construct meaning out of shared activities with members of their cultural communities, most notably parents (Tamis-LeMonda & Song, 2012). For their part, parents facilitate language learning by responding to infants' gaze, touch, gestures, and vocalizations with words for relevant objects, actions, or events (Bloom, 1993); they tailor the lexical diversity and grammatical complexity of their language to meet the developing skills of their infants; and they provide infants with multimodal sensory, redundant information (e.g., gesturing toward an object while labeling) that visibly marks the referents of conversations. These social interactions lead to a shared system of words and meanings (Nelson, 2007), a perspective that can be traced to Vygotsky's (1978) “Zone of Proximal Development” (ZPD) and Bruner's (1983) conceptualization of the “Language Acquisition Support System” (LASS) and parental “scaffolding” (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976).

Parents are also primary agents ...

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