W e begin with listening because it is the first language skill infants “develop in their thirst to understand their world” (McPherson, 2008, p. 73). The child begins to understand language before he or she can speak it. Thus, listening is really the starting point for all other communication skills, including reading and writing.

Listening Defined Most people tend to take listening for granted because it is something everyone does unconsciously. Yet despite its universal nature, it is often misunderstood. For example, many teachers assume that a child who hears well is a good listener and therefore does not require instruction in listening. This assumption is false, because hearing and listening are not the same. Hearing is a physical act that involves the reception of sound waves through minute vibrations in the outer, middle, and inner portions of the ear; it is a passive act (Petress, 2000). Listening, on the other hand, is a mental process; it is “the awareness of, the tending to, the organization of, and the operationalization of data entering our nervous system via our hearing mechanism” (Petress, 2000, p. 26).