Linguistics at Newcastle

Improving Language Development in Children

Improving Language Development in Children

Cost Action is a project designed to enhance children's oral language skills. It focuses on interventions for children with difficulties learning their first language.

It's estimated that language impairment affects 5.8 million children and young people across Europe. There is evidence that intervention can improve this situation. Yet, this information is not well disseminated and services are inconsistent.

Many different academic and professional groups support these children. But, they have never before been brought together before to focus on intervention. These groups include:

  • speech and language therapists
  • linguists
  • psychologists
  • pedagogs

Cost Action is a four-year project, which began in December 2014. It takes the form of a European Research Network, led by Professor James Law of Newcastle University.

This project is developing a sustainable network of researchers well placed to answer the key questions in this area. It will enhance science in the field and improve the effectiveness of services for children with language impairment. 

Better Communication Research Programme

Professor James Law recently helped carry out the biggest review of speech and language support for children in the UK. As one of four academics who led the three-year Better Communication Research Programme.

The £1.5m project arose from the Bercow Review of Services for Children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. It found many children’s needs are misidentified and that early intervention is important. It raised concerns that, without significant action, 1.5m children will reach the age of 11 unable to ‘read well’ by 2025. 

This worrying situation prompted leading charities, teachers, parents and businesses to form a coalition called Read On. Get On. a national mission to support parents and teachers.

As part of the research, Save the Children commissioned Professor Law and statistician Tom King, of Newcastle University, to carry out analysis of the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study of 18,000 children born in 2000 and assessed at regular intervals.

This report showed that reading to and with children matters for both mothers and fathers. But, the impact of a father’s reading – particularly to children after they have started school – appears even greater.