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Boys can be chatterboxes too! A blog from Mary Hartshorne, I CAN’s Director of Outcomes & Information and a qualified speech & language therapist

This week our blog is dedicated to our membership of the Read On.Get On campaign which is focussing on getting little ones ready to read by helping parents develop 2-5 year old’s communication skills

Last month the Read On.Get On campaign launched a new report which showed the difference not only in the language and reading ability of children growing up in poverty with children who are better off but also a difference between boys and girls. We were asked “why?” Who is to blame” but we think the better question is “So what do we need to do now?” and don’t worry- because we have the answers.

It is a fact – typically language develops a bit more slowly in boys than girls, but not always, and usually not significantly so. They are just a bit behind girls – maybe a few months. For most children, that’s not a problem, language just develops at a different rate.

We know that gender differences are to some extent culturally determined. Parents do tend to behave differently in relation to boys and girls – there’s significant research which shows this. But some of these basic gender differences are present so early on in life – even in newly born babies – that cultural differences cannot be the only cause.

There is still much discussion about the ‘why?’ of gender differences, neurologists are broadly in agreement that brain development may explain key differences in early development of boys and girls

The thing that’s important for us is that this means it can be counterproductive to push formal learning too early with boys.It’s essential to get the foundation language skills in place, even more for boys. It’s essential as well for parents and those working with children in their earliest years to know the best ways to support early language development so children are ready for school and ready to read.

There’s so much for us all to learn about the crucial role language plays early on and in building the foundation skills to read and to get on in life. Girls and boys can like to play at different things (but not all of them!) – But all activities can be language activities. Anytime is storytime! The way adults interact with young children is the thing that can make the biggest difference.

It doesn’t always take a huge change to what we do – just a focus when time allows on making sure we’re taking the opportunities to inject language learning opportunities into what we’re doing with our littlest ones – and finding ways that we can do that with boys that builds on what they are doing and what they like. There’s plenty of good chat to be had about building a rocket or a making a den – maybe next time you can call it a fortress or a hideout- giving new words to inspire a developing mind!

A blog from Mary Hartshorne, I CAN’s Director of Outcomes & Information and a qualified speech & language therapist