Why Reading is Important for Early Language
There are a variety of reasons why reading is important for early language development. When we read to children, we expose them to more and new language that in turn predicts later language development. It is important to know that children learn language by hearing words being spoken to them and around them. For example, when you are changing your baby’s diaper or singing to them before nap time, they are watching your mouth move.
By watching your mouth and face, the child’s brain is making a thousand connections about what is going on and language is being developed. They are watching your lips or teeth touch and your tongue move when you are engaging with them. Their brain is figuring out for themselves how to copy your model. This is why reading is a great tool to promote early language learning.
Make Reading Exciting!
It has been proven that reading to children as early as eight months of age has a huge impact on early language skills. From eight months on, the more a child is read to, the better. When reading to a child, make it exciting! Show the child that you are excited about what is happening in the book, to bring them into your world, as well as engage them with you. For example, if reading a book like Brown Bear Brown Bear, make sound effects for each animal. Say “woah” or “wow” when you turn a page. The goal when reading is to make it fun!
Tips for Reading Time with Children
- Let the child choose the book to read.
- Have your child help you turn the pages as the book is read.
- Have props to go along with the story to reenact the story being read. For example, a bunny toy if reading Peter Rabbit.
- Practice finding items on the different pages. Ask the child, “Where is the bird?” And see if they can find and point to the bird.
- Point to your mouth as you say a certain word in the story. This is called multimodal communication. The child is being provided with more than one model of the word. They hear the word being spoken, in addition to having a visual representation as well.
- Sit across from your child while reading and put the book beside your face at an equal height.
This serves as a visual reinforcement of the language being modeled by the child being able to see your face/mouth while also seeing the book’s illustrations.
- Ask questions to the child about the story. You can ask the child, “What noise does a dog make?” If the child does not answer, this is okay, but make sure to provide the model yourself before moving on since the child’s learns with repetitive modeling.
Books to Use to Elicit Language That Children Enjoy
- Flap books
- Board books
- Books with clear and simple illustrations on each page that’s not overwhelming
- Books that are not too busy with verbiage and illustrations
- Touch and feel books to promote sensation and interaction
Through reading, children learn not only new words, but new concepts and ideas from the stories being told. The artwork represents the story being read, which in turn, promotes storytelling comprehension. When we read a story, as well as have a visual representation to go along with it, the child is being exposed to multiple models of language. When reading to a child, remember that we do not have to read every word on the page. You don’t even have to read the words and sentences at all. Just talk about what you see on the page and engage with your child in a way that is motivating and exciting for both the child and you. Contact us to learn more.
SuperDuper Early Language Development Handout #18
Book Time by Linda Mawhinney & Mary Scott McTeague