Research Finds Mealtime Chat Supports Kids’ Learning… But 1 in 4 Missing Out

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New research shows that children who sit down to eat dinner and talk with their family are far more confident communicators than those who don’t. However, the National Literacy Trust report reveals that 1 in 4 children (26%) don’t have daily mealtime chat and almost a third (30%) spend more time online or watching TV than talking to their family. 

The research with nearly 35,000 children and young people across the UK found that two-thirds of those who talk daily with their family at meals feel confident to speak in front of a group but less than half of those who eat in silence do. Children who don’t enjoy regular talk at mealtimes are also four times more likely to not feel at all confident putting their hand up in class or working in a team. The research also found that disadvantaged children are nearly twice more likely to rarely or never talk with their family at mealtimes than their better-off peers.

In the Government’s proposals for a revised National Curriculum, there is a renewed focus on speaking and listening skills in primary schools from September 2014. The National Literacy Trust’s new research shows how families can play their part in giving their children a solid foundation in speaking and listening skills by taking simple steps like chatting together at mealtimes. The charity is calling on parents to recognise the importance of talking regularly at home for their child’s well-being and success.

Natalie Cassidy, ex-EastEnders star and mum of Eliza, aged 3, supports the National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life campaign for parents. She says, “I believe it’s incredibly important for mealtimes to not only be about the food we eat but the conversation we have around the table. As Eliza is unable to read or write yet, the spoken word and listening back are the first steps on the learning ladder for her.

“The time my fiancé, Eliza and I share around the table is the time we sit and listen to each other, rather than being on our phones, watching television or doing chores around the house. I know how busy life is and we haven’t all got partners to share dinnertime with. I know we get home after long days at work and just want to get the little ones to bed. Even if you’re strapped for time, make 10-15 minutes to all sit down together. Food is fuel for our bodies. So is conversation for our brains.”

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, the charity behind the Words for Life campaign, said: “Our research shows just how vital conversation at home is to the future success of our children and young people. We’re delighted to see speaking and listening skills recently restored to the primary curriculum and hope that parents will build upon this at home. Talking and communicating at home, for example at mealtimes, will help children gain the skills they need for a successful and happy life. Parents can visit www.wordsforlife.org.uk  to find everything they need to support their child’s communication skills as they grow up.”

Words for Life is a National Literacy Trust campaign targeted at parents and carers to give them the tools, resources and confidence to give their child the best possible foundation in communication, reading and writing skills. One person in six in the UK cannot read, write or communicate as well as they need, and parental input, particularly in the early years, plays a key part in how well a child’s literacy skills develop.

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Posted by Amy Moylan

 

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