Literacy connection Special Mark

The Sacramento State Literacy Connection is a collaboration of Dr. Robert Pieretti and the Applied Communication Sciences Lab (ACSL) in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (Speech Pathology and Audiology) at Sacramento State. Aside from being involved in active research projects in the field, the Literacy Connection also provides regular undergraduate and graduate student-led community service in three areas:

  • The Sacramento State Storytime Connection provides weekly literacy enhancement through the reading of storybooks and associated craft activities to low-income children and their families who participate in local Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) programs. 149 sessions have been led by 99 undergraduate students using approximately 289 children’s books since the inception of the program in Fall 2013.
  • The Sacramento State Literacy Connection provides regular parent training each semester in the area of literacy enhancement in both English and Spanish at SFBFS and Aspire Public Schools in a series of four classes designed and presented by graduate and undergraduate students in our program under my direction. Seven graduate students and 29 undergraduate students have served as instructors since the inception of the program in Fall 2013. Twenty-two students have served in support roles, such as program coordinators and translators.
  • The Sacramento State Literacy Connection maintains a website dedicated to literacy enhancement materials for families in the community. The site includes “Questions to ask Children When Reading” available in 11 languages, techniques to elicit language and literacy growth at home in several languages, links and resources regarding language and literacy, and red flags indicating the need for language and/or literacy assessment.

Check out our Youtube Channel:

Organizations Served by the Sacramento State Literacy Connection

KVIE Studio Sacramento: Early Childhood Literacy.
Dr. Roseberry-McKibbon and Dr. Pieretti discuss early childhood literacy and ways to promote literacy development

Quick Links



Speech and Language Techniques for Eliciting Language
Methods for Eliciting Language
How to Talk To Your Children to Expand Their Language and Knowledge

How to Talk to Your Child.pdf

Top 12 Things to Know About Raising Your Child Bilingually encouraging 2 languages.pdf
Toys Have Language Too Toys Have Language Too.pdf

"Speech and Language Techniques for Eliciting Language" 

Techniques provided by Lisa Harada.

  • Set up face-to-face interactions.
  • Recognize and respond to your child’s signals telling you what he/she wants to say.
  • Model language and give your child words to use for what he/she wants to say.
  • Name objects and actions with words, small phrases and simple sentences.
  • Know your child’s understanding of words and phrases.
  • Use self-talk to describe activities that you are doing.
  • Use parallel-talk to describe activities that your child and others are doing.
  • Expand your child’s words and phrases into simple sentences.

When you can do these things:


Printable handout: Encouraging SL.pdf


Created by Dr. Candace Goldsworthy, Dr. Robert Pieretti, and the Spring 2012 Curriculum Class (SPHP 222) in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at California State University, Sacramento.

Reading to children promotes school readiness. Asking children questions about the stories you read helps with this. Here are some specific questions that readers can ask children to get them thinking and talking about stories. Start slow -- point to the pictures and give the answers yourself to begin. Slowly work up to having the child answer the questions when you ask them.

1. BEFORE reading a book, look at the pages and pictures and talk…..
Ask/Instruct/Help using any that apply:

  1. How do you hold a book? Show me.
  2. Point to the cover, the back of the book (spine), and the author’s name.
  3. What’s the title of the book?
  4. Who’s the author/writer of the book?
  5. What do you think the book is going to be about?
  6. Point to the 1st page of the book.
  7. Point to the 1st word of the book.
  8. Will you turn the pages for me when we read?
  9. Do you have a (dog, cat, anything from the story)/ Have you seen a (dog, cat, anything from the story)?
  10. Have you seen anything like this before?

2. DURING reading, pause to ask questions……
Ask/Instruct/Help using any that apply:

  1. Where should I read next? (have the child tell you to turn the page)
  2. Where is the page number?
  3. Can you follow what I am reading with your finger?
  4. Where is the first letter in this line/word?
  5. Where is the story happening?
  6. When is the story happening?
  7. What/who does this remind you of?
  8. Why did the character do that?
  9. What do you think is going to happen next?
  10. Have you seen anything like this before?
  11. How does this character feel?
  12. Have you ever felt that way before?

3. AFTER READING the book, review the story by talking about the book……
Ask/Instruct/Help using any that apply:

  1. Who was the story about?
  2. Where did the story happen?
  3. When did the story happen?
  4. What happened in the story?
  5. What happened after that?
  6. What else happened?
  7. How did the story end?
  8. Did the character learn anything?
  9. Did the character make good choices?
  10. What did you learn from the story? (Was there a moral?)
  11. What was your favorite part/page?
  12. Which picture did you like the best? Which picture did you NOT like the best? Why?
  13. What would you have done if you were in the story?

© 2013 Dr. Robert Pieretti and Dr. Candace Goldsworthy of California State University Sacramento (All right reserved)

Downloadable "Reading to Children" fliers:

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Methods for Eliciting Language

Children learn language through their environment - what they see and what they hear. They learn most of their language from the most important people in their environment, which can include their family. It is vital that you, as the child’s caregiver and communication partner, become a major language teacher in this child's life. The most important idea to remember is that children don't learn language by using fancy gadgets and expensive toys, but through interacting and communicating with the important people in their lives - through day-to-day activities, play, TV, reading etc. Below are some ideas that may help you to interact and communicate with the child in your life, and to facilitate language learning.

If your child is making noises, like babbling (i.e., “goo-goo,” “ba-bee” etc.) , respond by making the same sound, or a similar one while playing. For example, you could repeat their babbling while banging a spoon or clapping your hands. Imitating children's sounds, words, and actions shows them that they're being heard and that you approve of what they're doing or saying. It also promotes turn-taking and, best of all, encourages them to imitate you and your more complex language utterances, which will help them to learn meaningful language as they develop.

When you are labeling a new object, really stress the word by raising your volume and saying the word more slowly. For example, while walking around you house, you may point to the window, and say “this is a window.” Stressing the important word grabs their attention, which will allow them to store and remember the word for when they’re exposed to it later.  

Contingent responses  
Try to respond immediately to all attempts to communicate, including words and gestures. This is important because it reinforces the importance of communication, and gives you the opportunity to model more sophisticated language skills. 

See and Say
If you are naming objects for your child, bring the object close to your mouth as you name it. That way he can see the object, hear the name and see how your mouth moves to produce the name. He sees that it's all connected. You can also try then putting the object up to your child's mouth and see if he will imitate what you did. It won't happen the first time (probably), but will eventually.

If your son is pointing to the apple juice that he wants to drink, he is communicating with you. Take this to the next level, or scaffold, by interpreting what he is trying to say. In the above scenario, you can respond with, "Apple juice! You want apple juice!"

If your child is copying something that you have said and has omitted an important word, you could repeat what he said but include the omitted word. Sometimes emphasizing that word helps the child to pick up on the word.

Short and Sweet 
When you talk to your child be sure to use short sentences. His memory and listening skills are not sufficiently developed at this age to follow the lengthy and complex language that adults use in their conversations. Try using sentences are that are just one to three words longer than the ones the child is currently using.

Talk! Talk! Talk! 
Research shows that families who have children who are speaking very little tend to reduce their talking in front of that child - probably because they aren't receiving much encouragement from their child. Put words to everything you're doing. What goes in (to the child) must come out!

Eliminate negative talk
Try not to say things like, "That's not where the cow goes," or, when they're coloring, "The sky isn't pink." Remember we want to encourage all attempts to communicate and validate those attempts so that kids do more of it. We all respond better to more positive phrasing. Instead, you can try “I like how you’re coloring so beautifully! Does the sky look pink or blue?” This way, you’re encouraging them to communicate with you, but you’re also making sure that they are associating the concept with the appropriate label (in this case, the color of the sky).

Balance turn-taking
Give kids the space to exercise their communication skills by making sure they get a turn. Turns don't need to be talking, either. A turn could be your child handing you a toy or making eye contact. Maybe your daughter will look at you because she needs help opening a box. You can say, "Do you need help opening the box?" or more simply, “Need help?” Then you can wait for her to hand you the box—that's her taking another turn. Turn taking can be hard for caregivers because adults are used to taking charge of situations. It is important however to give kids the opportunity to use the skills they are developing.

Give them time
If the child doesn’t respond right away, that’s okay. The child is learning and experimenting with language, so they may need an extra 10 seconds to process the information you’re giving them, and formulate what they want to say.

Label things
Even when kids aren't ready to use words yet, you can prepare them by labeling things in their environment. As examples, during bubble baths, keep referring to the bubbles, and while eating, you can label apple juice by saying “apple juice.”

Limit "testing"
If you know that your son knows which sound a pig makes, don't keep asking him. Testing him during playtime instead of just playing with him can be stressful. Instead you could say, "I wonder where the pig is going?" It still invites him to respond, but it doesn't put him on the spot.

Labeled praise:
Instead of just saying "good job," put a label on that praise. If you're child isn't yet using words, (or even if they are) you could say, "Good job putting all the blocks back," because it reinforces their good behavior even more. For a child who is using some words to communicate, you could say, "Nice job telling me that you want apple juice," or "Nice job saying more juice please." This will help create positive feelings around communication and motivate them to continue to try and add new words.

Playing is learning!
Use a lot of play activity to teach language. Children love to play and it is one of the easiest ways to facilitate language. Try to play what your child wants to play. Present one to three activities from which your child may select one to play (for a short time). Think of all the wonderful language you can use while playing that activity.

Planned Misunderstanding
When your child makes an incomplete communication, pretend you don't understand the message.  For example, if the child points at a desired object or says only the name of the object (e.g., food, toy, candy) when the intended communication was a request, cue the child for more information by saying something like "Yes, that’s what it is. What do you want?"  If your child then says a request, "I want [the object]," provide it and offer praise: "You said, 'I want [the object].  Good job!"  If the child simply repeats the same utterance, model the correct form and offer another communication opportunity, by saying “Now you try…”

If you are sure that the child knows the name of a concept or an object, play the fool! For example, if you know that the child knows what a table is, you can point to the table and say, “TV?” They should look at you like there’s something wrong with you, or most likely laugh at how silly you are. If they correct you, try looking at them in confusion, and use gestures to show them that you  need help with the label and say “what is it?” Be sure to only use this technique with words you are sure they know! This should be an exercise to boost their self-esteem and make them feel like “the teacher,” because they should be able to tell you what the object actually is.

As you and the child play or work together, talk about what you are doing. For example, "Mommy is building a tower, one block. Two blocks. Uh-oh, Mommy's tower fell down. Mommy pushed her tower down."

Parallel Talk
Put words to the things that your child is doing. For example, "Bobby is hitting the balloon. The balloon goes up. The balloon is flying. Bobby is chasing the balloon. Bobby fell down."

Developing Routines
Routines such as getting dressed, washing dishes or cleaning up a room allow for consistent practice.  But an added benefit to establishing routines is that, when adults violate learned routines, children often try to correct the violation by explaining what's wrong.  This need to correct the routine creates highly motivating practice opportunities for children.  For example, one routine would be "washing dishes."  If the child is working on prepositions, put a plate away in the silverware drawer.  The child may try to correct the error by explaining that putting plates away in the silverware drawer is silly--that you should put plates in the cabinet.  If not, the adult can cue such communication; i.e., point to the drawer and say, “Something's wrong here.  Oh my gosh!  Where are we going to put the silverware?!”  Then model the use of prepositions “in," "out," "on,” “off,” “over” and “under” correctly in many sentences to provide good models.

Repetition, repetition, and guess what… repetition! 
Using these tools over and over again, and describing or labeling the same things over and over again is a good thing! The brain is a pattern seeker; we learn by exposing ourselves to the same information multiple times. This is why you may have noticed that some children are content to watch the same movie or listen to the same song ad nauseum! They thrive on repetition because that is how they learn.

When the child uses a short phrase, repeat that phrase and add a word or two to make the sentence slightly more complex. For example, if Bobby says, "more milk," you might say, "Bobby wants more milk?"

Rhyme Time
If possible, try watching some “Winnie the Pooh” movies or nursery rhyme movies with your child. Sesame Street and Barney use music quite well to help with teaching language.

Helpful materials
In addition to toys, children love clay, Play-Doh, painting, finger-painting, time at the park, going for walks and exploring for interesting things, and music. You can also use things around the house, like small mirrors, spoons, plastic cups, pillows, and cardboard toilet paper rings. Be creative and enjoy!

You don’t need to buy fancy toys, use what you have!
Include your child in some of your activities around the house. Children love to help their parents and older siblings with tasks. Have the child help or watch you cooking, for example. You can use self-talk while you’re cooking by talking about what you’re using and the steps you’re taking as you’re cooking. While you are mixing ingredients in a bowl you could say, “I am mixing,” and as you pour more ingredients into the bowl, “I am pouring.” Again, the child is getting the repetition of the same phrase, and they’re able to associate what you’re doing with your words. All the while, you are completing tasks that just have to get done!

The information was accumulated and adapted from numerous internet blogs and articles, as well as Mrs. Lynda Oldenburg’s “Language Stimulation Ideas for the Home.”

The blogs and articles include:

Downloadable "Methods for Eliciting Language" Flier: Methods for Eliciting Language.pdf

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How to Talk To Your Children to Expand Their Language and Knowledge

provided by  Sepha Hall, M.S., CCC-SLP, Language Speech and Hearing Specialist

I have found over the years that the number one way you can help expand your child’s language is to talk to them. That sounds funny of course, because you talk to them all the time! But it is more than that. It is describing the world in which we live in a way that brings them understanding as to how the world works.

And how do we do this?  A good place to start is to take a simple job or chore that you are engaged in and describe what you are doing out loud in front of your child.  For example if you are washing dishes you tell the sequence of events while they are happening. 

 “First I turn on the water.  I watch the water go into the sink.  The sink is getting full. The water feels hot. Next I get the soap and put it on the sponge.  Here is the soap.  I squeeze the bottle.  The sponge is all covered in soap. The sponge feels squishy. Then I scrub the dishes. The dishes are dirty. I Scrub, scrub, scrub, scrub.  Now they are clean.  I need to rinse off the soap though, and put the dish in the drainer. Now let’s drain the sink.  The sink is empty.”

 Just by doing this simple thing you are enriching your child’s language.  They are listening to how you do a job and hear a sequence of events. When they get to kindergarten and first grade they are going to have to start composing stories with the sequencing concepts, first, then, next, last. So by describing what you are doing, you are instilling in them this concept that they will need in school.  Just in the basic description above, your child will also be exposed to other language concepts and vocabulary such as: full, empty, squishy, squeeze, scrub, dirty, clean, rinse off, drain.  And all these concepts are reinforced as the child is helping you do the chore. 

 And this method does not end with simple chores around the house. It can easily be applied to all circumstances.  Walking down the street you can point out everything that you and your child come across.  Poles are tall or short, fat, or thin, round, hard, made out of mettle or wood. Street signs are diamonds, squares, circles, and octagons.  Plants and trees are tall or short, fat or thin, bushy, bare.   The leaves are thin and long, short and fat, crunchy and dry, brown, green, soft.   Water races in along the gutter and into the drain.  The drain is deep and what is it used for?  Why do you have a drain in the street?  This is when you can start answering questions they have about the world around you. You can always fall back on the basic wh- questions to describe your environment by talking about who, what, where, when, and why things are. 

 Another example of this is when you go to the grocery store.  There is so much there to talk about.  Grocery carts start out empty and then they fill up and then they are “full”.   Food is hot or cold or room temperature and come in boxes, bags or cans.  Point out who is working in the store, the cashier and the baker and what are they doing and why. Fruit and vegetables come in all different colors, shapes and sizes.  This is a time when kids can pick out the fruit and vegetables and put them in the bag. Have them count how many that they have.  Think about the concepts of “more” and “less.”  Do we need one more?   Is that enough? Is that too much?  Is that all?”  These are the concepts that children will be exposed to in math when they enter kindergarten.

 As you can see, we have a rich world and every detail can be described by comparing, contrasting, sequencing, and answering the questions who, what, where, when and why.  Every detail and event can be broken up in this manner and if you describe this to your children, and let them share with you their discoveries, you will enrich their vocabulary and expand their knowledge and language skills.

Downloadable "How to Talk to Your Child": How to Talk to Your Child.pdf

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2015-16 Sacramento State Literacy Connection Parent Training Team

  • Laura Lara
  • Bailey Savage
  • Maricela Cortes
  • Betty Figueroa
  • Hannah Hudnall
  • Brittany Ross
  • Christina Derebenskaya
  • Hannah McMillan
  • Coryn Hernandez
  • Jeri Crawford
  • Talore Spencer
  • Deisy Caro

2014-15 ACSL Research assistants

Graduate Students:

  • Kitty Czarnecki
  • Angelica Manzo
  • Mike Molino
  • Jennifer Ochoa
  • Bailey Savage
  • Nora Shimoda

Undergraduate Students:

  • Catherine Cunha
  • Elizabeth Ferris
  • Maria Flores
  • Allison Hartsell
  • Gianna James
  • Marissa James
  • Cami Richards

2013-14 ACSL Research assistants

  • Jovany Estrada
  • Sara Jacobowitz
  • Jennifer Ochoa
  • Nora Shimoda
  • Sharon Sundman-Schultz
  • Sarah Wessel

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