I recently read a research study about reading to young infants and its effects on language development.
The study looked at play with puppets and toys versus reading simple stories to one-year-old infants. They found that children make more word-like attempts and receive more responses from their parents during reading than during play.
The responses from parents were also more varied in type, and directly connected to what the parent thought the child was trying to say. This study is provides powerful evidence that reading to even very young infants has a significant impact on language development.
If you could see my house, you would be amazed at all the books. There are books in almost every room. Reading and its impact on language development has always been high on my list of priorities for my daughter. I started reading to her at a very young age, and started taking her to our local library at the age of two. She loves getting books at the library; and now that she can read on her own she likes picking books to read to me. I love reading, and it is clear that my love has been passed on to her. She also has a very large vocabulary for a 5-year-old. I am convinced this is in part due to all of the reading we have done over the years. Her natural curiosity plays a part as well.
As a speech language pathologist, the connection between reading and language development makes perfect sense. Books contain a wealth of information and vocabulary. Most of the books that are created for infants and young children have wonderful illustrations or real-life pictures that draw attention and assist in learning new words. Not only do the children hear the words that are being read; they can also hear the adult comment on the pictures, and respond to their comments. Books also allow us to have a known shared experience. It provides a clear path for what to talk about–either the text or picture.
I love using books in my sessions with children. We spend time reading, looking at the pictures, and sometimes even acting out the story. I enjoy using books to work on new vocabulary, to learn about new things, or to make connections with our own experiences. This can be a lot of fun, and I get to share some of my favorite books.
So how do you choose books for infants or children functioning at younger developmental levels? Look for books that contain nice bright illustrations or real-life pictures. I also choose books with simple sentences that follow a story line. Pick a handful of books that your child seems to really enjoy, and start with those. You can always add to your home library as you go. Try not to make the same comments every time you read the book, but always respond to your child’s attempts to communicate. I love using the local library for finding new books to expand my own collection. You don’t need a large number of books at home if you have access to a library. Librarians are great resources, and can help you find books that most kids enjoy.
The best part about reading with your child is the snuggle time. So go find a good book and curl up with your child, and have fun on your adventures!
This article is written by my colleague Erin Roon MA CCC-SLP, who is the speech language pathologist at my clinic. I’d love for you to share some of your favorite books to read with children below in the comments!