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Communication, Language & Literacy

Communication, Language and Literacy - Infants (Birth to 12 Months)

"Baby talk" might be the most adorable learning tool ever! As your infant grows, you'll soon notice he or she understands many more words than they can say. That is because babies learn the meaning of words and other forms of communication first. Remember that, until they have the words, their only way to express themselves is through crying, gesturing and facial expressions. Pay close attention to what your baby is trying to communicate and respond accordingly.

About This Domain

From birth, children are learning language and developing the ability to communicate. The Communication, Language and Literacy domain describes many important aspects of children’s language and early literacy development.


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Communicating and Oral Language Development


CLL Goal-1: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children successfully communicate for multiple purposes.

Respond to familiar faces, voices, or simple sign language by looking or making eye contact.

Briefly pay attention to the same object the caregiver is looking at.

Communicate nonverbally by repeatedly using actions to let adults know what they want (reach out arms to ask to be held).

Respond to simple requests (“Do you want more?”) with sounds, actions, or simple sign language.

Engage in turn-taking during social and vocal play with adults and other children (babbling, imitating facial expressions).

CLL Goal-2: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children speak clearly and use the grammar of their home language.

Make different sounds and actions for different purposes (coo to gain someone’s attention, whimper when wet, cry loudly when hungry).

“Jabber” and pretend to talk using many sounds or simple sign language from the languages used around them.

CLL Goal-3: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children understand and use an everexpanding vocabulary.

Make specific sounds, facial expressions, and/or gestures for certain people and objects.

Imitate sounds, words, and gestures.

Recognize spoken or signed words used for common items, people, and actions.


Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Design your environment to reflect the diversity of families represented in your program, including their cultures, languages, and family make-up. This can include fabrics, signs, books, photos and posters that portray people involved in real life experiences, and other materials that you can talk with the children about.
  • Play CDs of children’s songs from various cultures, while children are playing in centers or interest areas; occasionally sing along and encourage children to join you.
  • Provide basic toy phones (which can be purchased or made from plastic PVC pipes and corner joints) that allow children to hear themselves speak, providing immediate feedback.
  • Include wordless books to build listening, vocabulary, comprehension, and literacy skills.
Effective Strategies to Support Children’s Development and Learning
  • Make sure babies can see or feel your mouth when you hold them. This is particularly important when talking with children with hearing loss. Make sounds or repeat the sounds babies make to encourage back and forth communication.
  • Respond to young children when they look at you, cry, smile, coo, say words, and reach or move toward you. Talk to them, pick them up, and imitate their sounds back to them. Show them you enjoy these conversations
  • Practice conversational turn-taking with young children through talking, actions, and playing games like “peek-aboo” or other communication games from their culture. Ask family members to teach you some of these games.
  • Realize that behaviors such as biting or tantrums may happen because children do not have the words to communicate. Help children relax and give them words and or simple sign language that can help them name and describe their feelings and communicate their needs.
  • Take children outdoors to listen to sounds. Encourage children to listen intently and to describe sounds they hear in their environment.
  • Use a variety of words when you talk, including labels for things, action words, and many descriptive words. (“Look at the squirrel with the long, fluffy tail! It is running and jumping all over the yard.”)
  • When speaking insure tone and facial expression match what is being said. For example, use a serious tone when saying “Hitting hurts. Be kind to friends.
  • Encourage children to try out new sounds and words, including words in different languages (family language, school language, and/or other languages). Give children opportunities to play with sounds. Provide experiences with “stretching out” words by saying them slowly sound-bysound.
  • Talk with children in a positive tone and speak in an encouraging way about what they are hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. Talk about printed words they see related to those experiences.
  • Teach children simple words and phrases in sign language and use with familiar songs and phrases.
  • Sings songs, say rhymes, and do finger plays in English and other languages.
  • Use transitions between activities such as songs, sign language, and finger plays incorporating actions during transitions are especially helpful for children with limited communication skills.
  • Engage children in conversation while at play, snack time, lunch, and during other routines.
  • Listen attentively; don’t rush children’s speech. Follow children’s lead in the conversation and show interest by being at the child’s level.
  • Use photos of the child doing the routine activities of the day to help those who have difficulty with understanding directions.
  • Help children discriminate sounds in spoken language through rhymes, songs, and word games, using various media (e.g., CDs, tablets, computers, smart boards).
  • Provide communication devices, such as picture schedules and communication boards that have pictures the child can press or point at to communicate wants and needs.
  • Talk about things you are doing and the child is doing (“referred to as mapping your actions.”) Think of interesting words to describe details and actions. For example, if you are pretending to wash dishes, you might talk about scrubbing and scouring. When outside describe what the sounds are as you hear them.
  • Provide frequent opportunities for children to talk and listen to each other such as a sharing time, lunch, and snack times using smaller groups to encourage more meaningful conversation.
  • Provide opportunities for children to talk in front of a mirror so they can see the movement of their mouth and the sound they are making at the same time.
  • Use enjoyable books, poems, rhymes, finger plays, and songs that children can repeat frequently.
  • Use facial expressions, gestures, sign language, and a rich and varied vocabulary when speaking and reading with children.
  • Give children clear instructions that help them move from simple directions to a more complex sequence. State directions positively, respectfully, carefully, and only as needed.
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Foundations for Reading


CLL Goal-4: Through their explorations, play and social interactions, children develop interest, motivation, and appreciation for literacy-based materials and activities.

Pat and chew on cloth, plastic, and board books.

Look at pictures of faces and simple objects in books and other media.

Listen to simple and repetitive books, stories, and songs.

CLL Goal-5: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children comprehend, use, and begin to reflect on and analyze information in books and other media.

Show recognition or delight when caregiver reads a familiar story or sings a familiar song.

CLL Goal-6: Through their explorations, play and social interactions, children begin to recognize basic concepts of print and discover that they can get meaning from print.

Explore books and paper by tasting, mouthing, crumpling, banging, and patting

Look at pictures while cuddling with caregiver.

CLL Goal-7: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children listen, identify, and respond to sounds, and develop phonological awareness.

Imitate and take turns with caregivers making different sounds.

Explore and play with sounds by themselves and with others (make “raspberries” and other sounds).

CLL Goal-8: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children develop knowledge of letters and the alphabetic principle.



Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Keep hard cover board books (which have sturdy cardboard pages) where children can have easy access.
  • Create comfortable, engaging areas outside where children can read, look at books and listen to stories.
  • Play a variety of music, including multicultural and children’s songs and taped environmental sounds.
  • To develop the skills and strategies of successful readers and stimulate curiosity.
  • Set up comfortable and inviting spaces in different parts of the classroom for children to be engaged in literacy. For example, a cozy library/book area where reading is enjoyable.
  • Establish daily routines in which you give simple directions for children to follow. (“First, let’s pick up all the blocks, and then come sit on the rug.”)
Effective Strategies to Support Children’s Development and Learning
  • Provide interactive books that allow children to push buttons to hear sounds in the story, and books with textures to feel. Consider adding textures to books such as fuzzy fabric scraps to books about animals.
  • Give children access to books throughout the day. Provide books that young children can put in their mouths and books with pages that turn easily, such as cloth and board books.
  • Include books that show children with disabilities in a natural way as part of the stories and pictures.
  • Make available books that reflect sociocultural experiences at home and in communities.
  • Make books using pictures of family members and other familiar objects found in magazines, catalogs, and environmental print (such as pictures from catalog cut-outs and labels from favorite foods).
  • Make stories come alive by using different voices and body movements.
  • Point out words in books and in the environment (street signs, toy boxes, words on pictures in the room).
  • Encourage children to read repetitive, familiar parts of stories in simple, predictable books, which have only a few words on each page, like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
  • Demonstrate your own enjoyment, interest, and motivation to read in a variety of ways, showing children that reading is fun and useful. Model caring for books and treating them with respect.
  • Frequently read and sing with books like Mary Had a Little Lamb and The Wheels on the Bus that contain words to songs. Sing the alphabet song while pointing to the letters.
  • Read a variety of culturally diverse books, poems, and nursery rhymes with children.
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Foundations for Writing


CLL Goal-9: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children use writing and drawing as means of communication.

Make random marks with safe, simple writing tools with the support of a caregiver.

CLL Goal-10: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children grow in their understanding of letters and writing skills.

Watch as others write and draw.


Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Provide many, varied opportunities for very young children to use small motor movements, rotating their wrists, and pincer grasp (with finger and thumb) through exploring and playing with a variety of materials and experiences, including water play, dumping and filling containers, stacking, eating, and grasping.
Effective Strategies to Support Children’s Development and Learning
  • Emerging.
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Learning New Languages


CLL Goal-11: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children demonstrate an understanding that there are multiple languages and begin to communicate in another language other than their home language.

Emerging as infants listen to the sounds of their home language and other languages they hear.


Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Set up the environment to help children learn a new language. In the listening center provide books in other languages on CD and computer apps. You can also provide CDs and other media that have simple songs and phrases in multiple languages. These are available online or in teacher supply stores. Ask volunteers, parents, or older children to record stories for the children to listen to, including the home languages of the children.
Effective Strategies to Support Children's Development and Learning
  • Invite parents and members of the community who speak other languages to come in and teach children a simple song and a few greetings or special words. Be culturally sensitive to parents; invite, but do not push them to come until they feel comfortable. Instead work on building a relationship over time.
  • Teach color words and numbers in other languages, such as Lakota number words: one - wanci two - nunpa three - yamni four - topa five - zaptan six – sakpe seven - sakowin eight - saglogan nine - napciyunke ten - wikcemna
  • Sing simple songs in other languages to help children hear the sounds of the language, such as Frere Jacques in French.
  • Use motions to go along with songs to help children learn words.
  • Another song to sing throughout the year with the children is: It’s a Small World Es (Its) un mundo (a world) muy pequeño (very small). Es un mundo muy pequeño. Es un mundo muy pequeño. Es un pequeño, pequeño mundo.