The "Super Skill" for School Readiness


Andrea Lynn Koohi, Staff Writer, and
Tamara Stein, Program Specialist

When we think of the early skills that prepare young children for academic success, we often think of things like math or early literacy skills.

It’s true that a child’s preschool math skills predict their success in that subject later on, just as their early literacy skills predict their later reading ability [1]. But imagine a skill that affects much more than its own success. Imagine a “super skill” that sets the stage for young children to succeed in many different areas. Does such a skill exist? According to new research it does, and it’s right under our noses – language.

New research proves that language doesn’t just build on itself – it also plays a key role in the development of other important skills. It turns out that a child’s level of language skills before entering school predicts their success in both math and in reading, and even has an effect on social skills development. [1]

How Does Language Affect Other Skills?

It’s easy to see the connection between language skills and other areas of development if we consider language as a kind of “toolkit” for learning. For example, one part of language is comprehension, or the ability to understand spoken language. We use our comprehension skills to understand number concepts (which is key for learning math), as well as vocabulary concepts (which is key to literacy skills).

Another part of language is expression, or the ability to use spoken language. We use our expressive language skills to connect with others, which may explain why stronger language skills support social skills development.

Language learning is key!

This new research shows how important it is to make language a key focus when preparing young children for school. When we promote a strong foundation of language skills, we open the door for success in many different areas of children’s lives.