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Awakening Children's MindsHow Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference$
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Laura E. Berk

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195124859

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195124859.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

Why Children Talk to Themselves

Why Children Talk to Themselves

(p.75) Three Why Children Talk to Themselves
Awakening Children's Minds

Laura E. Berk

Oxford University Press

If you could become the shadow of a 2- to 8-year-old, furtively tagging along as the child goes about his or her daily activities, you would notice a curious form of language behavior—remarks in which the child seems to talk to himself or herself or to no one in particular. This speech-to-self occurs frequently. It can surface in virtually any of the child’s pursuits—during fantasy play, drawing and painting, building with blocks, tackling academic tasks, idly passing the time of day, and quieting down before naptime or nightly sleep. Researchers call this spontaneous, self-directed talk private speech. Unlike adults, who self-consciously talk to themselves only in solitary moments, young children freely use private speech in public. So at ease are preschool and primary-school children in speaking to themselves in front of others that on observing this behavior, many adults question its normalcy! “Confused,” “touched,” and “strange” are among the descriptors I have heard them apply to self-talking children, generalizing from “crazy people,” who not only speak aloud to fantasized audiences but also act improperly in a great many ways because they are indifferent to their social surroundings. To be sure, talking to oneself in the midst of a roomful of people is not acceptable in the adult social world. Yet all of us engage in private speech from time to time. And it is ubiquitous in early childhood. When children between the ages of 3 and 10 are observed in classrooms, private speech makes up as much as 20 percent to 60 percent of their language. Why do young children engage in it so frequently? To grasp the significance of private speech in the life of the child, let’s begin by looking at it in ourselves. When are you most likely to talk out loud to yourself? In response to this question, most adults say they engage in audible self-talk when they face cognitive, emotional, or social challenges. Here are some self-reports: • “At the end of a busy day, when I’m tired and distracted, I sometimes find myself looking for an important document, for my keys, or even for where I parked my car.

Keywords:   Authoritative parenting, Bedtime private speech, Crib speech, Egocentric speech, Guilt, Imaginary companions, Literacy development, Make-believe play, Pride

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