Reading books with toddlers to stimulate language development

Reading books with toddlers to stimulate language development

Speech and Language Therapist, Rachel Cleary from Treetop Therapy gives us some tips on how we can encourage language development with our toddlers while reading books. The main aims of this article are to help you to engage and interact, stimulate language development and to have fun with your child!

Before you get started:

Choose age appropriate books: Introduce books with thick pages, flaps, pop out characters and texture books that they can feel. These features make books more interactive, e.g. thick pages ensure the child can get directly involved in the activity and turn the pages.

Accommodate their interests: Choose topics you know that they like, e.g. animals or transport.

Make your own book: You could put together a book made up of photographs from the child’s life, e.g. the sequence of events from a fun family day out, and add some simple text underneath. You could also involve your child in the making of such books, e.g. they can choose the pictures that go into the book or paste the pictures in.

Now you have chosen the right books, try these next steps:

Seating arrangements: Try not to sit behind your toddler. Instead, try sitting face to face or side by side so you can both optimally interact with one another during the book sharing activity.

Follow their lead: Let your toddler read the book their way – even if this means skipping pages, not reading the entire book or going back and forth in the book. This is especially important when first introducing books with young children as it avoids the child feeling as though it is a forced activity and gives them a sense of control.

Start out by describing the pictures: Following your child’s interest, i.e. if they point to or look at something, talk about this. You can focus on reading the words of story books later, when their attention, language and interest in books are heightened. Limit questions asked in the book, such as ‘what is this?’ or ‘what colour is this?’. Focus instead on talking about what you see in the book and what is happening.

  • Use a variety of words: Name the objects, people and animals. Use action words to describe what they are doing (run, swim, eat, etc). Add describing words, such as wet, dirty, etc).
  • Be animated: Stress key words while describing the pictures, e.g. “dog JUMP ”. You can try to act out parts of the story, e.g. jumping like the animal in the book together with your child, or use gestures and your tone of voice to make your picture descriptions/the story more exciting.
  • Expand on what they say: Repeat their word or phrase and add one more word, e.g. your child might say “car” so you could say “blue car” “fast car” or “car go”.

Here are some links to other articles about sharing books with toddlers: