Nathalie BERTHOMIER, Sylvie OCTOBRE
The importance of the parental role in building a child’s relationship with books and the influence of this relationship on their journeys as readers is well understood. What is the influence of language interactions between parents and children in building a relationship with langage and how does this early socialisation work?
In 2011, the ELFE panel was set up in France, enabling the study of a representative panel of 18,300 children from birth, something with which the Ministry of Culture has been involved. We have drawn upon three sets of studies conducted during the infants’ first year to investigate the issue of early language socialisation. Family capabilities and contributions as well as three types of language interaction with parents (talking calmly, singing nursery rhymes, reading books) have thus been correlated with the language skills of children at the age of one year old, for both understanding and articulacy.
The study indicates that these three language socialisation activities are very widespread but emphasises that they are not equally practiced by both parents. This will vary depending on their social status and cultural capital, as well as the infant’s sex and how their families deal with them in relation to any siblings. This shows the importance of language-based activities in developing infants’ comprehension and use of words and underlines the positive role of the early handling of books for babies. Finally, it brings into sharper focus the existence of widely varying expectations regarding comprehension and expression in accordance with social strata, right from an infant’s first year of life.