Why is Oral Language so Important to Literacy Development?

Why is oral language so important to literacy development

Last Updated on May 27, 2024

U.S. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that about 34% of students are below the basic reading level(fourth grade), and about 31% are below the proficient reading level. This is itself very shocking news. 

So, what are the ways to overcome it? There are many proven ways to overcome it such as Oral Language Skills, Phonological Awareness, Alphabetic Knowledge, Print Awareness, Decoding & Word Recognition, Reading Comprehension, and so on. Among them, oral language skills are very powerful in literacy development, and in this content, we will talk about it.

So, what is oral language to children?

Oral language is the ability to use oral or spoken language to communicate with others effectively. For children, the development of oral language is the basic foundation for learning. Moreover, it ensures overall cognitive development too. 

Let’s Discuss Why Is Oral Language So Important To Literacy Development:

Foundation for Phonemic Awareness:

For foundation for phonemic awareness oral language development is a must. It helps the children understand different sounds, and their meaning and composition. They also learn how to make up words. 

According to Bright Little Owl, oral language development helps children the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. It also ensures the reading and spelling capacity in the future.

Vocabulary Development:

Vocabulary development plays a vital role in language development for children. The more vocabulary your children can process, the more their oral skills will enhance. Rich oral language experiences help build a child’s vocabulary. A larger vocabulary provides a strong base for understanding written text. 

Children who are exposed the more words through conversation, storytelling, and listening to others can easily learn, recognize, and understand those words. It will help them when they encounter the words in print. That’s why it is important to talk with the children frequently and let them play with other children regularly to develop vocabulary. And, ultimately it will give results in the process of literacy development.

Comprehension Skills:

Comprehension skill is the ability to understand and interpret the meaning of text. And, oral language skill has a great contribution to this development. When children understand the spoken language, it helps them to grasp the meaning of written text.

It helps children in

  • Recognizing words, 
  • Understanding vocabulary, 
  • Making inferences, 
  • Connecting ideas, and 
  • Critically analyzing information. 

And, thus it contributes to the literacy movement.

Syntax and Grammar:

Syntax and grammar are one of the main parts of a language. With the help of oral language, children learn the rules of syntax and grammar. It helps them with the word arrangement for sentence and their specific meaning. Besides they can make different sentences and words in the same context.

When children learn correct sentence structure through listening and speaking, it helps them in writing too in the future. And, finally, it gives a boost in literacy development.

Narrative Skills:

Narrative skill is to understand and tell stories. Oral language helps to enhance narrative skills. This includes 

  • Comprehending the sequence of events, 
  • Identifying characters and their motivations, 
  • Describing settings, and 
  • Understanding the cause-and-effect relationships within a narrative. 

It enhances those very important skills that result in developing both reading comprehension and writing ability.

Listening Skills:

The listening part is the main component of oral language. We should understand that good listeners become good readers in the future.

So, how can they improve their listening skills? They can improve listening skills by 

  • Listening to stories, 
  • Instructions, and 
  • Conversations

It develops the ability to focus, understand, and interpret spoken language. And, It directly benefits their ability to decode and comprehend written language.

Social Interaction and Communication

We have already given some ideas about the benefits of social interaction and communication for children. It gives children a huge boost in overall brain development. When a child interacts with family members, especially the father, mother, grandmother, or grandfather, they observe and learn communication skills. Besides this, interaction with other children also helps them in learning different words and sentences through oral language. Through talking and listening, children learn to express their ideas, ask questions, and engage in discussions. It boosts their confidence and skill in language both orally and in writing. And, in the full process, it overcomes literacy development.

Cognitive Development:

The gradual progression of thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, and understanding abilities is called cognitive development. It has some processes such as

  • Perception, 
  • Attention, 
  • Memory, 
  • Language Acquisition, and 
  • Decision-making

When a child engages in oral language, it enhances his cognitive development. Conversion with others in complex language and ideas, helps children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These cognitive abilities are essential for understanding and analyzing written text for literacy development.

Practical Applications of Oral language In literacy development:

  • Reading Aloud: Children need to read aloud. It exposes them to new vocabulary and complex sentence structures.
  • Storytelling and Discussions: We need to involve children in listening and telling their own stories. It enhances their narrative and expressive skills.
  • Interactive Conversations: We need to involve children in conversation with a variety of topics. It expands their vocabulary and understanding of language.
  • Listening Activities: There are many listening activities for children such as following directions or answering questions about a story. It builds listening and comprehension skills.


From the above discussion, we can tell that oral language plays a vital role in developing literacy rates. In other words, the skills required to build phonemic awareness, vocabulary knowledge, comprehension – syntax, narrative capability, listening power, communicative capability, and cognitive growth are developed through oral language. It ensures the children have rich oral language experiences. It is essential for their success in literacy and beyond.

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