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Supporting children's early language development and communication skills

Baby on floor  with book"The earliest months and years are the most important in a child's development. The sooner children hear language, the sooner they begin to understand and use words." (Language and Play programme)

Babies love books

Specialist publisher Treehouse Children's Books has produced the Babies Love Books leaflets and posters as part of its new early learning activity packs for nurseries, libraries and parents. Produced in support of Talk To Your Baby, the leaflets and posters demonstrate how preschoolers and toddlers enjoy sharing and talking about books. Copies can be obtained from Christine Barham at Treehouse Books by emailing

Baby and Me

Church Street Sure Start Local Programme and The Children's Project have come together to produce Baby and Me, a DVD giving simple tips to try in communicating with babies. Made with families living within Westminster, the film shows people from diverse cultures and backgrounds talking with, playing together and soothing their babies. The DVD is in 3 languages - Arabic, English and Sylheti. To order visit Social Baby.

Before Words' and 'Now we're talking!

acks of pictorial information sheets about communication development in very young children and ways to encourage it. The focus has been on producing attractive, informative, accessible and memorable resources for use with parents and workers in a wide range of situations. Developed by speech and language therapists Lynn Jones and Gretel McEwen at Sure Start Westgate, the packs can be ordered by emailing or by faxing a Purchase Order to 0191 256 5020. 'Before Words' costs £5.95 plus p&p. 'Now we're talking' costs £11.95 per pack.

Birth to Three Matters

A framework of effective practice to support staff working with children aged under three. Over 300,000 packs have been distributed to day nurseries, registered childminders and Sure Start programmes. The pack includes an introductory booklet, a poster, a 25 minute video, a CD-Rom, and 16 laminated cards which focus on each of the four Aspects (A Strong Child, A Skilful Communicator, A Competent Learner and A Healthy Child) and their corresponding components. Copies of the framework can be obtained by visiting the Surestart website.

Birth to Three: supporting our youngest children

Learning and Teaching Scotland has launched Birth to Three: supporting our youngest children, new guidance commissioned by the Scottish Executive Education Department. This guidance is intended for all those involved in caring for babies and very young children, such as early years workers, social care and health practitioners and students preparing for such work. Visit Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Chatter Matters

A DVD to help parents support their children's communication development and has been developed by I CAN and Openreach, a BT Group business. The programme is presented by Dr Tanya Byron (House of Tiny Tearaways and Little Angels) and offers ideas to help parents develop their child's speaking and listening skills throughout their pre-school years. The DVD is available free for families and is also available for professionals to buy. For more information and how to order visit the I CAN website.

Confident, capable and creative: supporting boys’ achievements - Guidance for practitioners in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Additional guidance material for the EYFS. It provides support for practitioners in creating provision to ensure that boys can achieve equally as well as girls For more information and to download the booklet visit the DCSF website.

Developing Language and Literacy with Young Children

Written by Marian Whitehead (Paul Chapman Publishing, 2007)
A highly readable guide to what it takes for babies to become competent communicators, highlighting this most important skill and all that goes into making us fully functioning human beings. The wonder and the science combine to show through a wealth of practical examples just how we can help young children to communicate, to think, to become literate and to fully develop their potential. This is the third edition of this book, first published in 2002, brought up to date with references to the latest brain research and to such developments as Early Learning Goals. Anybody who has not read earlier editions will find this book invaluable, with useful summaries at the end of each chapter. 

Discover - making stories together

Provides creative, play and learning opportunities to enable children and their carers to develop their potential. It particularly targets families in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage and ensures that children are listened to and can participate in decisions that affect their lives. The story making centre offers an introduction to story language and structure and sessions are offered for the foundation stage. For more information visit the Discover website.

Dummies - good or bad? A guide for parents

A leaflet produced by Sure Start Orton giving advice on the use of dummies. It is available to buy and to order copies call Sure Start Orton publications on 01733 237 209.

Early Communication Skills

A practical, photocopy resource packed with activities to help preschool aged children, particularly those with language difficulties, become effective communicators. The activities are based on the principle that all children learn best through play; many of them can be easily incorporated into everyday routines.

Ethan's First Half Hour

A set of ten A4-sized colour laminated prints for use by midwives and health visitors in parenting and ante natal classes. The prints are stills from video filming from The Social Baby and clearly show a newborn baby's desire and ability to actively communicate with his parents right from the very beginning. For more information visit Social Baby.

Everyday babycare: Learning to talk (2004)

A practical, user-friendly guide answering the key questions parents ask about their child's language development. Covering speech development from early babbles to complete sentences and beyond, this brightly illustrated book is packed with expert tips on useful topics like television and bilingualism. Written by Professor James Law for DK publishers and Johnson's, this book is highly recommended by the Talk To Your Baby team.

Flying start with literacy

Written by Ros Bayley and Lynn Broadbent (Network Educational Press, 2005), this is a guide written for parents and carers of pre-school and primary children. It includes activities and fun games for helping parents to contribute to their child's overall literacy development. For more information visit Network Press.

Foundations of Literacy: a balanced approach to language, listening and literacy skills in the early years, by Sue Palmer and Ros Bayley

This book outlines seven strands for the foundation years upon which successful teaching of literacy skills depends, drawing on the advice and experience of many professionals involved with this age group. It provides fun activities for 3-6 years olds, designed to develop the skills, concepts and knowledge underpinning literacy. To order contact Network Educational Press LTD; Tel: 01785 225515 or email

Help Your Child To Talk

A leaflet for parents produced by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Download as pdf. Contact: Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, 2 White Hart Yard, London SE1 1NX. Tel: 020 7378 1200.

How to develop children's early literacy: a guide for professional carers and educators (2004) Laurie Makin and Marian Whitehead, Paul Chapman Publishing: London.

This book offers pragmatic ideas and information on key areas including literacy for babies and toddlers, literacy for preschool, daycare and nursery children, play, bilingualism, special needs and official curriculum frameworks.

I Love 

A Kid Premiership Early Years Book designed to stimulate and encourage early communication skills. The book includes talking tips for Mums and Dads. To order visit the Kid Premiership website.

Kids Development

A website which contains articles on child development and includes a section on speech and language age 0-3. Visit Kids Development

Language and Literacy in the Early Years, (2004), 3rd edition, Marian R. Whitehead, Sage Publications: London

This book provides comprehensive coverage of issues in language, literacy and learning, focusing on birth to the age of eight. The author emphasises the joy and creativity involved in supporting young children's development as speakers, writers and readers.

Learning to Talk, Talking to learn

A DVD from I CAN and has been jointly produced by the BT Better World Campaign and I CAN as part of the Make Chatter Matter campaign. For more information and to order, visit

Look who's talking! (2004), Laura Dyer, MCD, Meadowbrook Press: Minnesot

This book covers all aspects of speech development from pre-verbal signs to the most common language problems and how to address them. Parents and practitioners will learn how to recognise preverbal signals and are offered practical ways to enhance speech skills before and after children start talking.

Make Talking Fun - A book for grown-ups so they can help!

This book, aimed at anyone involved in caring for babies and young children, gives tips and advice on learning to talk. Written by speech and language therapists in Sandwell in the West Midlands, it covers a range of topics such as dummies, TV, books, singing and playing as well as everyday situations for talking times. The importance of face-to-face communication, watching and waiting, and encouraging choices and turn taking are also emphasised. For orders and enquiries tel: 0121 530 8035.

Make Chatter Matter

Published by the National Childminding Association, June 2005, this report looks at how registered childminding supports children's speech, language and communication development. It highlights that almost one in three registered childminders are caring for children with a range of impairments of which almost half are children with a speech, language and communication need. Most of them were doing so having gathered information and advice from the child's parents and the internet, and very few of those surveyed had contact with a relevant professional. In addition to the survey results, the report includes NCMA's recommendations to government and other children's professionals to acknowledge and support the work of childminders. To download the report, go to the NCMA website.

Promoting speech and language development: guidance for Sure Start programme, Sure Start, 2001

This is a framework for promoting children's language development within Sure Start that fits in with its third objective: improving children's ability to learn and reaching the target of reducing by five percentage points the number of children with speech and language development problems requiring specialist intervention by the age of four. The guidance describes activities to promote speech and language development in three sections: the home and community environment; carers in childcare settings; and the role of specialists. Each section includes a summary of good practice, descriptions of Sure Start initiatives and research summaries that illustrate evidence-based practice. Contact: Sure Start on 020 7273 4830 or visit the Surestart website.


A series for CBeebies designed to help nurture and extend the pre-school viewer's understanding and appreciation of language using play, stories, song and dance. Concentrating on speaking and listening skills, Razzledazzle supports the Foundation Curriculum's Communication, Language and Literacy early learning goal. More information can be found on the CBeebies website.


A whole-school framework to promote the social and emotional aspects of learning. It is divided into seven themes with Foundation Stage resources available. SEAL is designed to be used flexibly alongside existing school activities.

Sense Toys

Supplies toys, activities and books from a range of sources that are designed to help language development and nurture a variety of skills through play. The range is suitable for all children, but particularly for those with special educational needs. Each product comes with simple play tips. For more information visit the Sense Toys website.

Sure Start magazine

Sure Start has launched an online version of their magazine, which provides more content on early years issues, downloadable case studies, resources and publications, online discussions, details of associated Sure Start services and more news and views. Visit Sure Start for more information.

The Brazelton Centre

The Brazelton Centre in Great Britain and the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, L.L.C have developed a 20-minute DVD which health professionals can share with parents and carers to demonstrate the Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale and to share the excitement of understanding infants through their behaviour. The DVD brings to life the remarkable ability of babies to communicate with others. Visit the Brazelton website.

The Social Baby by Lynne Murray and Liz Andrews

An engaging book full of delightful and detailed photographs of very young babies, showing extraordinary early communication between adult and child. Even in their first weeks of life babies show highly organised social responses, and this book shows parents and professionals how to understand and value these simple yet complex signals and cues. Published by CP Publishing, Richmond, Surrey (2000).
The Social Baby is also available as a video with breathtaking footage including Ethan communicating with his parents just moments after delivery. Produced by the Children's Project and NSPCC.

The Social Toddler: promoting positive behaviour by Helen and Clive Dorman

Reviewed in Nursery World, 24 April 2003: "full of wise advice about communication by words and body language with very young children". Published by CP Publishing, Richmond, Surrey.

Understanding Childhood

The Understanding Childhood website has a range of free downloadable leaflets on children's behaviour and emotional development, originally produced for the Child Psychotherapy Trust (CPT). Child and adolescent psychotherapists and other experts researched and wrote the leaflets for CPT, which operated successfully from 1987 to 2004. Leaflets include 'Your new baby, your family and you' and 'Postnatal depression: a problem for all the family'. Visit Understanding Childhood.

Word Play

Written by Sheila Wolfendale & Trevor Bryans, this is a book of language activities and games for children and their parents, aimed at nursery and infant school staff who are working to build home-school liaison. Cost £3.50. Contact: NASEN, 4/5 Amber Business Village, Amber Close, Amington, Tamworth B77 4RP. Fax: 01827 313005. Email:

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
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