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Talking and Learning with Young Children

Talking and Learning with Young Children

November 2015 | 216 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Children learn to talk through interaction including involvement in many thousands of conversations with adults and other children. These conversations provide the framework for exploring relationships, understanding the world, and learning – in its widest sense. This book explores how children learn to communicate using language, how they use language to learn and the role of adults in the process. It examines how adults  can support children to learn by involving them in positive interactions, meaningful conversation and by helping them play, explore and talk with each other. 

The book includes:

  • examples of children and adults talking and learning together
  • case studies of successful approaches that support language and learning in early years settings
  • points for reflection and practical tasks

Informed by the author’s own experience working with young children, families and practitioners, and from his involvement in the England-wide Every Child a Talker (ECaT) project, it links key research findings with successful practice to inspire practitioners to develop skills when talking with children, influence how adults plan for talk in settings and gain insight into how language develops in the home.  

Introduction: Talking successfully with children
How and why do children learn to talk?
Babies and adults communicating and learning together
Towards first words
Talking with two-year olds
Different experiences of talking at home
Quality talk in settings
Talking effectively with groups of children
Pedagogy and practice that influences talk
Communicating complex ideas

This really is a book about talking and learning with young children. A refreshing awareness of early learning and language as a partnership between young children and adults permeates the text.

Every chapter is shaped by conversations and exploratory talk and the key message for all practitioners is that such detailed conversations and opportunities for Sustained Shared Thinking (SST) can take place in busy early years settings.

It is all a matter of priorities!

Marian Whitehead
Language and Early Years Education Consultant

The author’s wide experience of working with young children and his fascination with their development shines brightly throughout this book. Michael brings together research findings, theoretical understanding, and authentic examples of practice to provide a treasury of information about how adults can best support young children’s communication using language. The many practical examples make clear how to recognise the potential in everyday events to develop detailed conversations with children.

Marion Dowling
Early Years Consultant

This book is a fantastic read, I have learned a lot both as a parent and also towards my professional knowledge as a 0-3 Learning and Development Officer for a Local Authority. I particularly like the way Michael includes points to reflect on and practical tasks as they enable you to really understand the theory he has written about/advice he has given and experience it for yourself.  The extracts of conversations also bring the theory to life too.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in how children learn and how adults can promote children’s learning and development.

Kelly Yeun
0-3yrs Learning and Development Officer

This book is fantastic for students of Speech and Language Therapy, early years practitioners and anyone involved with young children, or indeed anyone who is fascinated by the way we learn to interact with our world using language. It’s probably the best summary of the theories behind how and why children communicate that I’ve come across. There are useful points for reflection and discussion to embed and personalise the reading for those who wish to explore the ideas further. Michael Jones brings the theory to life with everyday examples we can all identify with to help our learning and understanding. Similar books often leave you feeling as if the author is using the book as a platform for showing how complicated the process is but there’s no patronising here, just excellent, practical information which we can use. It makes everyone realise that there is opportunity for developing communication in everyday activities and good ways to encourage that. I have no hesitation in recommending it… indeed I already have!  

Libby Hill
Director of Small Talk Ltd, Speech and Language Therapist

From the very start, Talking and Learning with Young Children has a positive message: ‘It is fun to talk, for the sake of talking’ and has a focus on joint learning between adults and children, rather than adults hijacking the conversation... As you would expect from such an experienced observer of children and raconteur, there are plenty of beautifully written examples of children’s interactions, in fact there are examples and case studies on almost every page. In addition, there is a very useful glossary at the end of the book... I think this is a book you could read just for the sheer joy of it – you don’t need to be doing a course or studying language development. It would certainly be a very valuable addition to the staff room or network group and for starting reflective conversations in staff meetings.

To read this review in full go to

Kathy Brodie
Early years advisor, trainer and author

Bigger questions such as how children acquire grammatical knowledge and understanding are timely given the current DfE end of KS2 Spelling and Grammar testing regime...In it’s entirety, the book would be an excellent resource for any higher level student looking to further their own knowledge and understanding of how children learn to use language effectively.This would be a very useful addition to any professional library. It helps us to understand the vital importance of high-quality interactions with all children, all of the time - including remembering that sometimes, less is more: listening and demonstrating understanding are as important as scaffolding and modelling language to children.

Early Years Foundation Stage Forum

This is a terrific book! The essential role adults play in settings is highlighted, as is the need to create plentiful opportunities for sustained shared thinking - with some humorous and quirky case studies that are a pure joy to read. The practical tips for developing talk in early years settings are also very helpful.

Martine Hovarth
Early Years Educator

The book is well structured and reveals the increasing complexity of child language learning and interaction, and each chapter offers points for reflection and practical exercises. I would recommend this book to parents who have an in-depth interest, managers of early years’ settings and nursery, kindergarten and reception class teachers.

Louise Coigley, Independent SLT, Director of Lis'n Tell

I think this book is great, especially as it gives out such positive messages about talking and encompasses children from all sorts of backgrounds. I am planning to order some copies for the library and am thinking about how to incorporate it into our teaching.

Dr Carolyn Letts
School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University

This easy to read book, aimed at early years practitioners, is clearly structured and links theory to practice well.  After each discussion, which includes records of conversations with individual children and groups of children, there are practical tasks for the reader to carry out, as well as opportunities to reflect on the topic of the chapter.

Overall this is an accessible read which challenges the reader to apply what has been learnt in each chapter.  It will provide some theory to those new to the area of speech, language and communication development and will be particularly useful for early years practitioners working in small or larger group settings.

Kate Freeman

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