Q&A: Renate Zangl on “Raising a Talker”

Not sure how to support language learning at home with your baby? Never fear! Gryphon House author Renate Zangl has all of the answers with strategies for turning even the most basic, every-day tasks into language-learning activities. Find tips for tweaking your play time to create a nurturing environment where discovery and language can flourish! Learn more about Renate and her new release by catching up with her in the interview below:

Q1. Why should parents care about how their child learns language? Don’t they all just do that anyways?

A1: Yes, at least most children learn language without problems. That does not mean though that all children learn language equally well. It turns out that children growing up in language-rich homes where parents engage, read, and always go an extra mile to engage with their children from early on, have meaningful benefits. They build bigger vocabularies, fare better in IQ tests, and have academic benefits in reading, spelling, writing and other cognitive tasks in school years. The bottom-line: Parents should care because caring and providing enriched learning opportunities pay off.  Children who can express themselves better and more easily not only can make themselves better understood but they are just plain more fun to talk with! They also can regulate and balance their emotions better, are less prone to temper tantrums, and they make friends with peers more easily by having advanced social skills. Language advances a child’s development in many different areas and it is the best tool to connect and build strong relationships with young children. By caring and giving children lots of opportunities to learn language well from early on, parents put learning on the right track and set the stage for their child’s future success.

Q2. How does this book help parents give their child a head start in language learning?

A2: It provides parents with ideas and inspirations for play activities in which they can use simple tips and strategies to enrich their conversations with young children. We show, for example, how parents can best engage newborns in first conversations through Baby Talk, or how to best read with infants and toddlers in a dialogic way. We explain why certain strategies – like using Baby Talk or dialogic reading – make learning more accessible to children.  Our strategies and tips change with age and support communication and language learning at each stage as children build language foundation in the first three years of their lives. They also support parents to learn what’s important when talking and engaging with infants and toddlers. In doing so, rich, diverse and developmentally appropriate talk and engagement is offered that is so essential in giving children a head start in language learning.

Q3. How does Raising a Talker help parents gauge if their child’s language learning is on track?

A3: First, every age range has a language checklist where parents can quickly gauge whether their child has mastered the most important developmental milestones by the end of each age range. Second, every language activity has built-in observation guides where parents can track specific skills learned in each of the games. This way they get a more detailed view on what their child can do at a given age. And third, the detailed developmental overviews give parents great insights about major changes in children’s progress from birth to age three, and allow them to anticipate what their child will develop next. In addition, we include early warning signs to look out for that may indicate disruptions or delay in learning to communicate, understand, and talk.

Q4. What makes your book different from the many baby-learning books on the market?

A4: There are many ways. First, it provides parents with a unique and accessible way to lovingly engage with children in play activities that are based on solid research and shown to foster children’s developing skills. Second, it introduces parents to the underlying research in an accessible manner by using science-based tips and strategies to foster communication. Third, it provides measures for parents to gauge their child’s developing skills and the input that they themselves provide.  It makes early communication truly about the often-cited delicate dance between children and their parents through simple and fun play activities in which parents learn how and why to use certain strategies to provide the best learning opportunities.