I’m sure every parent knows that reading to your child is beneficial for developing language and vocabulary, building engagement and building imagination.
So when should you start reading to your child and how often?
Did you know that reading to babies at 8 months old has a significant impact on language development? Reading to your baby and toddler teaches them about communication, builds listening, memory and gives them information about the world around them. It is also a really good way to bond with your baby.
How often should you read? The more reading you do with your child the better. There is no hard and fast rule on the amount of reading that should be done to develop language.
How do I read to my child?
Remember you don’t have to only read the words on the page. Talk about the pictures using simple 1 -2 word sentences e.g. look – butterfly, or butterfly up.
Follow the child’s interest – if the child turns the page before you are done – go with it! If the child looks at something else on the page – comment on what they are looking at.
Remember when we talk we don’t only use labels so model a variety of single words when reading e.g. car, car go. Go fast. Little car’.
Vary the pitch and volume of your voice – as it will add interest and your child is more likely to listen to your words.
What books should I choose to read?
I love repetitive books – the books that have the same line repeated on each page. This creates a brilliant opportunity for you to pause when you come to that line e.g. In the book ‘ Brown Bear Brown Bear what do you see?’ – each time you come to the line you could say the first part and wait with an expectant pause for the child to fill in ‘see’.
Lift the flap books – these books create anticipation and children are more likely to imitate when you pause just before you lift the flap. These books also encourage interaction and helps keep younger children engaged. These are brilliant books to teach location words e.g. in the book Where’s Spot? There are lots of opportunities to model location words e.g. ‘ in, under, behind’.
Choose books that grab your child’s attention. Thinking about their interests is a good start but also think about where they are with their language development. You can check out the ages and stages of language development https://cornerstonetherapy.co.nz/does-my-child-have-a-language-delay/. Children who have a good grasp of language may enjoy longer books. However, if they are still learning to say new words sometimes simpler books allow more opportunity to repeat and emphasise new words for them to copy.
Choose books with bright colourful pictures. These will be more engaging. Sometimes choose wordless or almost wordless books – I love these books as they encourage oral language in any age group e.g. red hat by Lita Judge
Remember you don’t have to only have books that teach colours, numbers and letters – children learn these in natural ways and through play. There will be time later for them to learn these concepts.
Reading together creates and builds language but more importantly it builds special memories between you and your child – treasure it.
Speech Language Therapist