A Love of Language: Using Books to Foster Language Development

By | 2017-12-26T11:23:08+00:00 January 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|

by Narissa Ventress, M.A., CCC-SLP

Books are one of the greatest teachers for our children. They help encourage and foster language development in the youngest of readers as well as expand the vocabulary of older readers. When children are younger and exposed to picture books, they make connections to the bright and fun pictures they see. They become interested in identifying, naming, and talking about pictures in the books. Once they are older and become independent readers, children become more adept at using grammar, syntax, as well as learn new vocabulary by using the context of the story. So, how do you use books to encourage and foster language development? Here are some ways to optimize your child’s book reading experience.

Words and More Words

Children should hear many words on a daily basis. Not only do they need to hear a lot of conversation, they benefit greatly from hearing a variety of words. One way to target new vocabulary is to use the new word in different ways to help your child understand (e.g., “let’s take a trip to the store” and “grandma has just returned from her trip”). Reading the same book repeatedly also helps vocabulary to stick. And don’t forget to introduce your child to unfamiliar words. Studies show that book reading is a great way for your child to learn abstract language. Finally, don’t be afraid to use big words!

Choose Books About Topics Your Child Is Interested In

Pay attention to your child’s favorite toys, interests they develop at school, and even characters from a favorite show. Get down on the floor and play with them to really learn what they are interested in. Then choose books that mirror those interests. If you have a baby or toddler, pay attention to the gestures and sounds they make while reading to them. This will help you identify what catches their attention.

Make The Meanings of Words Clear

If your child appears confused about the meaning of a word, help them to understand by:
• Showing them pictures for clarification
• Using your voice to express the meaning of a word (e.g., use your voice inflection to match the emotions in the text)
• Using contrast words (i.e. same/different, all/some, now/later) and linking words (e.g., because, so, or, when)

Interact with Purpose

Take turns talking about each page in the book. When you turn to the next page, wait a moment and let your child take the lead. Then respond to any questions or comments they may have and expand on what they said (e.g., Child: Doggy! Parent: A little brown doggy! He wants to play catch).

Grammar and Language Go Hand in Hand

Your child learns to identify correct grammar and language usage from how the text is read. They can learn sentence structures and grammar markers when they hear and see the sentence structure from the story. Another way to develop grammar skills is to restate what just happened in the book to model changes in verb tense. For example, if the story read, “Johnny and his mom are eating ice cream,” you can say, “Yummy! Mom and Johnny ate ice cream!” Place special emphasis on the word you are highlighting (eating/ate).

Share The Experience

Using books to expand your child’s language development should be a shared experience. Talk about the story and take turns asking and answering questions. Chances are, you will learn a lot from each other.

In using these tips and techniques, you should be able to create an enhanced learning experience for your child!

If you have any concerns with your child’s language development, contact your local speech-language pathologist.

Avid Speech Therapy is located in Fountain Valley, in Orange County, California. We offer professional, evidence-based services, and we strive to enrich the experience of each client-therapist relationship.

See asha.org for additional resources.

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