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How to Use Books to Improve Your Child’s Language Development

How to Use Books to Improve Your Child’s Language Development

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Early childhood is a critical period for language development. As children's minds mature, it is important that we support them and provide them with the resources they need. Thankfully, these resources are not too far away! Kindergarten and elementary school curricula are jam-packed with all sorts of literature to stimulate language development in early childhood. As we’ve previously discussed in Support your Child’s Language Learning, we can even supplement our children’s progress at home by reading with them and to them every day. This develops a love for reading. Reading is often one of the first skills children develop as they learn a new language. How can we streamline this progress? Keep reading for a closer look.


Choosing their own books

Children are naturally curious, and parents can cultivate this curiosity towards learning. It’s as simple as allowing them to ask questions about the world and develop an interest in various topics. That way, they can explore books of their own accord, and learn more deeply about the topics they enjoy. When a child chooses their own books, The Conversation found that this encourages reading for leisure. On the other hand, when forced to read a book selected by a parent or teacher, children may direct their displeasure towards reading itself. It's important to remember that it is the act of reading that is the vehicle for language development, not the topic itself. That is because books expose children to different words in the proper context of using them, and they learn things by heart when having fun. This improves their grammar and vocabulary in one go, which is crucial for reaching language development milestones like understanding spatial concepts by five years old.


Constant exposure to words

A child’s brain is like a sponge. Parents can use this critical period for language development to expose children to books they love 24/7. Whether as a mid-day activity or during storytime before sleep, bonding over reading books to your child is key for childhood language development because this develops a positive association with reading. According to the AAP, reading books aloud also helps kids' language development by stimulating phonological awareness. Maryville University highlights literacy’s role in language development, including crucial periods where toddlers begin to apply their new receptive language skills, expressive language skills, and vocabulary skills in their everyday lives. Preschoolers, on the other hand, are focused on learning to distinguish the differences and similarities between spoken and written language. For parents who struggle to read or lack confidence reading to their children, audiobooks are readily available on the internet! This is also great for times of travel or housework. The National Literacy Coalition notes that audiobooks are useful for children's literacy because they boost their comprehension skills. This is particularly helpful when learning a second language too, because children can focus on vocabulary and pronunciation.


Reading in a second language

Many assume that reading books in an unfamiliar language is an unnecessary challenge. However, the language development milestones for second language acquisition show that children can develop limited comprehension after only 6 months of learning! Parents can streamline this process by reading familiar stories to them like The Three Little Pigs and asking questions that students can answer with one or two words, like, "Who blew down the straw house?" Research by Stuart Webb and Zhiying Zhang on reading bilingual books also shows positive results. Providing text in two languages — from Chinese text followed by the English text to the other way around — during language development in early childhood can serve as authentic means for students to learn vocabulary, collocation, and idiomatic expressions. Encouraging childhood language development through the use of literature is a necessary means to achieve bilingualism or multilingualism. With the right books, this process can be fun too! Children will grow to love learning and will carry the joy of reading and learning languages into the future.


Written by: Ally White