When parents ask me what to do to help their child’s speech and language skills at home, I typically say read books daily to your child. Parents are often already doing this activity, but they may not realize just how beneficial that time spent together is.
Books are amazing. They do so much more than share a story. Reading books to your child will increase your child’s vocabulary and set them up for academic success. See research here. Shared book reading builds bonds between child and caregiver, and increases the child’s interest in learning. Reading together also helps with language development, increased attention to task, and creativity.
Books are different for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. There are books written for each age group, but you can read any book for any age really. You can read the same book from infancy to preschool, but the focus and how you read it will be different. If the child is sharing the moment with you, then it’s a good book!
I talked about picking toys in the post here. This post here discussed play skills. Now we’ll talk about picking baby and preschool books. Books stores have so many different baby and preschool books to choose from. Below are some suggestions for picking books for your child.
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Books for Babies
In early infancy, you can read just about any book with inflection, and baby will just love hearing your voice. As baby grows and is able to sit in your lap for a story, there are things you may look for in a book to help with the experience.
Simple Pictures and Simple Language
Simple pictures are great because baby can focus easier on the page. When too much is happening on the page, baby may get lost and lose interest. Simple pictures also make it easier for you to improvise the story. Reading the written word matter less at this stage. Simplify your language to one or two word phrases as much a possible (i.e., “A baby! A happy baby. Bye baby.”
Touch and Feel to Add Language
Babies are all about using their senses. They chew and touch everything they can. Books that add different textures let babies explore their sense of touch as they read with you. Some books also have noises too. It helps engage the child and gives you a change to add language to what they are feeling with their fingers (i.e., soft nose, bumpy skin, I hear that!.)
Small Size and Durability of the Book
Babies love to check out books on their own, so having small durable books will help them. Cloth books and board books are excellent choices for young babies. They can touch, chew, and play with them as they learn about their book safely. The book below is my absolute favorite for babies. You can add pictures of your baby’s family members. You can work on family names (i.e., hi mama, my dada). The book is soft plastic, so it is easy to wipe clean. I had one for my home and one for my baby at daycare.
Books for Toddlers
Toddlers are more on the move, so reading books together may be different than when they were an infant. Be prepared to not finish a story before your toddler is on the move to the next thing. Keep at it! This will help your toddler slowly develop his attention span. Look for short books with the following characteristics to gain your child’s attention.
Predictable Text, Rhymes, and Song
Children love repetitive and predictable text. They also love hearing the same book over and over again. Rhymes and text that lends itself to good inflection keep your child’s attention. This will carry over into the preschool years as your child gets ready for school. Rhyming will be a helpful skill for learning to read. Singing while reading will keep your toddler engaged with you and your story.
Flaps or Pop-Ups
Toddlers are starting to have better control of their hands. They enjoy lift the flap types of books or books that have pop-ups. Using a little movement while reading helps keep their attention on the book. They like the control of being able to reveal what is underneath. It’s a great opportunity to see if your toddler will use his words to tell you what he sees under the flap. I often use the flaps for “peek a boo” with the picture underneath.
Colorful Pictures or Familiar Characters
Toddlers like colorful pictures to look at. I love colorful pictures for adding language to my short phrases when reading (i.e., yellow balloon). Toddlers also enjoy familiar characters like animals and family. This is also a time when tv characters might be part of your child’s world.
Books for Preschoolers
Preschoolers are starting to be able to sit for longer books. They are ready for more complex stories. You may no longer have the luxury of making up the story. Sometimes your preschooler will know if you missed a word in their favorite book. Preschoolers will still love amazing pictures, repetition, and rhyming in their books.
Social Skills and Experiences
Books that teach social skills like being kind, sharing, and waiting your turn help a child learn about what is expected of them. It reinforces what they are learning. Books are also a great way to talk about new experiences your child is about to have like going to the dentist or having a new sibling. It can help your child prepare for a new experience that may be scary.
Topics of Interest
Preschoolers start to fall in love with different topics like trucks, dinosaurs, fairies, or princesses. Look for books that reflect what your child is interested in. Finding different books on the same topic is a great chance to talk about same and different (i.e., This book was different from the other dinosaur book).
Beginning Basic Concepts
Preschoolers will start to learn basic concepts like colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. You can find books that focus on these concepts to help them learn and get ready for kindergarten. Counting and alphabet books are great for children to interact with you by counting along or saying the letters with you.
I hope this helps a bit when picking books for your baby and preschoolers. Reading is the best thing you can do with your child to help their speech and language development. What are your favorite books to read?