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“Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground”  Noah Webster, author of Webster’s dictionary

Welcome to my series on unlocking our children’s language potential.

Have you ever wondered what was the key to unlocking our child’s language and thus literacy potential?  The answer is rather surprisingly simple, and down right intimidating at the same time.  The key to unlocking our child’s language potential is ourselves.  As parents it is our goal to help our children become adept at language learning.  In order to help our children gain an understanding of language and its structure it is important that we understand where language is acquired and how it is organized.  In order to create lifelong learners in our children we too must be lifelong learners.

Brain: Attain and Organize Language.

Why should parents learn how the brain attains and organizes language?

Several years ago my then three year old son struggled on a daily basis to communicate.  He lacked the vocabulary that many children his age used.  He spoke in one to two word phrases.  Often he would resort to tears of frustration, and I would join him.  I ached for my son.  I began to search for ways to help my son.  What I discovered has opened up a new world for Chase.  Today we have conversations.  They sometimes feel a little circular, and about his topics of interest, they are rough around the edges, but each conversation is beautiful!

How the Brain Learns to Read by David A. Sousa built up my understanding of how the brain is a key to language acquisition and the path towards learning to read.  When we learn how the brain attains and organizes language we are able to increase our own ability to learn as well as that of our children.  We are able to put what we learn into practice and help ease our children’s anxiety in regards to language learning and also reading.  Through a better understanding of how the brain works we are able to improve our children’s language learning.  We may learn how to improve our memory, and that of our children.   When we learn how the brain attains and organizes language we unlock our children’s learning potential.

Brain Linked to Language

some brain areas

Parts of the Brain

Scientists have researched the brain for centuries.  Through time we have learned that the brain is responsible for vital bodily functions, movement, reading, memory, and so much more.  As technology advances we learn more about the brain.  One aspect that is exciting is the role the brain plays in language acquisition and structure.  The parts of the brain that are linked to language include the Cerebrum, Temporal lobe, Frontal lobes (both of which contain the Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area), Parietal lobes, and the Occipital lobes.

  • The Cerebrum is part of the forbrain and is the main part of the brain that we see.  The Cerebrum holds our memories.  It is the part of the brain that allows us to read books to our children, and allows our children to read books to us.  Through the Cerebrum we are able to form words and are capable of abstract thinking.
  • The Frontal lobes help us plan, make sound arguments, and acts as short term storage.  The Frontal lobe contains Broca’s area, which contains all the pieces necessary to process grammar, vocabulary, and syntax.  .
  • The Temporal lobe is the part of the brain that processes sound.  This is the part of the brain that gives us an appreciation of music, and will also be the part of the brain that will give us a distaste of our children’s music!  The temporal lobe is the part of the Cerebrum that helps store our memories.  We are then able to associate our memories with sight and soundWernicke’s area is located in this part of the brain, which holds the key to understanding meaning. 
  • When you enjoy a tasty meal and enjoy a good book the Parietal lobes are at work.  It is this part of the brain that deals with sensory integration, spatial and visual perception, word analysis, and recognizes the “relationships between the sounds of spoken language and the letters of the alphabet that represent them” (Sousa, pg. 55, 2003).
  • As your child encounters a dog for the first time the image is stored in the Occipital lobe.  The memory is stored with the images of the dog.  As your child learns to read the word dog is now linked with the memory and the Occipital lobe brings up that memory.  Often when we read we visualize the words that we have come across in the past.  It is important that when we are teaching difficult abstract concepts to our children we link those concepts with images and visual aides.  This way these images are linked with the word and the abstract concept can become more concrete.

Part II will cover how our children learn language.


American Psychological Association. (2006). See brain. See brain read. http://www.apa.org/research/action/reading.aspx

Colker  L. J.. (n.d.). First steps towards literacy: When talk isn’t idle. http://www.rif.org/educators/articles/whentalk.mspx

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2009). Know your brain. Retrieved, http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/brain_basics_know_your_brain.pdf

Reading is Fundamental, Inc. (n.d.). Providing a literacy rich home environment.  http://www.rif.org/educators/articles/providing_a_literacy-  rich_home.mspx

Sousa, D. A. (2005). How the brain learns to read. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

The brain wizard unlock the unlimited power of the brain. (2008). http://www.thebrainwizard.com/braindevelopment/development