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Nearly 1 in 4 Oz kindergarten kids have 'poor language skills'

Melbourne, Wed, 14 Mar 2012 ANI

Melbourne, Mar 14 (ANI): Australian children are starting kindergarten with the speech skills of three-year-olds and excessive exposure to TV and a lack of extended family could be the reason, a new study has suggested.


Up to a quarter of kindergarten students have poor language skills, which may impede their ability to learn to read.


NSW public school teacher Sandra Smith has just published Teach Baby To Talk after being shocked by the problem, The Daily Telegraph reported.


"Out of 30 children we had six to eight with speech problems in each kindergarten," Courier Mail quoted Smith as saying.


"It is articulation, pronunciation, vocabulary that is practically non-existent - and the inability to put a sentence together. Instead of saying 'can I go to the toilet' it is 'I go toilet'. They are speaking in sentence structures that are more like three-year-olds than five-year-olds."


Up to 28 per cent of boys and 19 per cent of girls aged eight to nine were considered "far below average" or "below average" in language and literacy skills by teachers in the Growing Up In Australia study in 2010.


Mrs Smith believes more children struggled with speech now than in previous generations she had taught over a 30-year career.


"There are many contributing factors, starting with television, computers and probably childcare," she said.


"Babies need a lot of one-on-one time from birth to develop speech so childcare centres have to give enough stimulation.


"And parents these days don't have the support network of extended families any more. Grandma and other relatives used to be nearby and they would correct speech. They aren't there now to say 'hang on, that is not how you say that'."


Talking to older children in "baby talk" and allowing "cute" mispronunciations to remain uncorrected also led to the problem.


The Speech Pathology Association of Australia asserted that up to 20 per cent of four to five year old Australian children had speech difficulties.


Professor Sharynne McLeod from Charles Sturt University, who specialises in speech and language acquisition, insisted that the students who started school with speech problems were more likely to be bullied and to not enjoy school.


"You translate oral speech and language ability to reading and writing," she said.


"If that is not in place you are at a disadvantage," she added. (ANI)


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