Improving Language Development in Children

Improving Language Development in Children

Professor James Law of Newcastle University is leading a European research network to look at how intervention can improve children’s oral language skills.

Cost Action IS1406 is a four-year project, which began in December 2014, designed to enhance children's oral language skills by bringing key people together to focus on interventions for children with difficulties learning their first language.

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

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

  • speech and language therapists
  • linguists
  • psychologists
  • pedagogs

This Action, as it is known, will enhance the science in the field. It will also improve the effectiveness of services for children with language impairment by developing a sustainable network of researchers well placed to answer the key questions in this area.

Child reading
Enhancing children's oral language skills

Review of speech and language support

Law (Professor of Speech and Language Sciences) also recently helped carry out the biggest review of speech and language support for children in the UK.

He was 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.

Improve children’s reading

Professor Law played an important role in addressing concerns that 1.5m children will reach the age of 11 unable to ‘read well’ by 2025, unless urgent action is taken to tackle the reading crisis facing Britain’s pupils.

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

Father's reading to children

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.


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Contact Information

Professor James Law
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5250