Reading And It’s Impact On Language Development: Why is it so important to start early?
Is an infant or toddler interested in books? Does s/he like looking at the pictures in books or magazines? Does your child seem curious about the words on the page? These questions reflect the importance of introducing books early on in a child’s life.
Recent studies have shown that infants make more attempts to communicate during reading than they do during play. Parents are also more likely to respond to their child’s communication attempts while reading than during play. Books are therefore a natural way to encourage language development in infants and toddlers.
I look for three things when selecting books for young children. Finding books with any of these three components will help enhance language development:
- Bright Clear Illustrations or Real Life Pictures – Books that contain colorful simple illustrations or actual photographs that match the text assist in understanding, and provide the opportunity for communication. Children will often study these types of pictures, and make comments about what they are seeing.
- Meaningful Text – This concerns the storyline and whether it makes sense. It also refers to the use of grammatically correct language. Sentences don’t need to be complex or lengthy to be written with proper grammar. Look for books that actually tell a story and don’t just repeat a static phrase with a rhyming word at the end (there is a time and place for those when your child is actually developing the skill of reading). The text and pictures in the book should match each other to assist in comprehension.
- Shared Experience – Find books about your child’s experiences or interests. Share books with your child that you are interested in, or that depict experiences you have had. Reading about things that are familiar allows for many conversational opportunities. Reading about new and unfamiliar things can be enjoyable as well, but starting with the familiar boosts that enjoyment and excitement.
Books provide so many opportunities for engagement and conversation. Young children have the chance to hear the words being read while looking at the illustrations, which increases vocabulary development. Books also lead to shared experiences, and can provide a clear path for what to talk about. As parents read and make comments, children can respond and learn how to share their thoughts as well. Books can jump-start so many wonderful conversations, and take you to places you and your child have never imagined.
Written by: Erin Roon, MA CCC-SLP
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