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The Importance of Early Speech and Language Development

As parents, we all want to give our children the best possible foundation for learning, communicating, and thriving. Developing strong speech and language abilities at an early age is crucial for kids’ future academic, social, and life success.

One of the most powerful yet simple tools we have for fostering children’s speech and language development is reading books together regularly. Let’s explore the many ways that sharing books can boost young kids’ communication skills.

Books Expose Children to More Words

One key factor in building a robust vocabulary is hearing a rich variety of words used in context. The texts of children’s books are typically filled with vocabulary words that go beyond the words kids hear in day-to-day conversations. As you read together, your child has the opportunity to hear and become familiar with more complex words like “elated,” “domestic,” or “incredible.”

Books also tend to repeat new vocabulary words in various contexts throughout the story. This repetition and reinforcement helps cement the word’s meaning in the child’s mind. Studies show that the number of words a child knows by age 3 is a reliable predictor of reading comprehension and overall academic success down the road.

Books Spark Conversation and Engagement

The beautiful illustrations and imaginative stories in quality children’s books have a special way of captivating kids’ attention and interest. When your child is absorbed in and excited about the book’s content, they will be much more motivated to communicate verbally.

You can feed off their enthusiasm by asking questions, pointing out interesting details in the pictures, and encouraging them to comment. This back-and-forth conversation allows you as the parent to continue building their language comprehension and expression.

Books Provide a Model for Proper Grammar

As children are first building their grammatical abilities, it’s important for them to be exposed to complete sentences that follow the proper rules of grammar. Many experts caution against using overly simplified “baby talk” phrasing, as this can deprive kids of hearing correct syntax. 

The sentences within book texts provide an ideal model of how to string words together into grammatically correct phrases and sentences. This allows kids to naturally pick up on language structure and word order through repeated readings.

Books Give Context for Learning New Word Meanings

When you come across an unfamiliar word in a book, you have the opportunity to pause and explain the word’s meaning using the supporting context of the story and illustrations. You can provide a simple child-friendly definition, describe what’s happening in the pictures, or use gestures to act out the meaning.

As you continue reading, your child will encounter the new word again in additional contexts, further solidifying their understanding. These brief conversations around new vocabulary words are invaluable for rapidly expanding your child’s comprehension of oral language.

Reading Books Promotes Quality Parent-Child Interaction

One of the most important benefits of reading together is the opportunity it provides for positive, nurturing interaction between you and your child. As you cozy up together with a book, you are able to give your undivided warm attention to your child.

You can follow your child’s lead regarding what pictures and content catch their interest. Maintaining this back-and-forth conversation, responding to their comments and reactions, and keeping the interaction fun and engaging allows your child to feel understood and encourages further communication.

How to Maximize the Benefits

To get the most speech and language development advantages from reading books with your child:

  • Start reading together as early as 8 months old
  • Let your child pick books they are interested in
  • Ask questions and pause for your child to respond
  • Explain new vocabulary words as they come up
  • Have fun and engage with enthusiasm!

The more you can make book-sharing an enjoyable daily habit, the more you’ll be fostering your child’s speech, language, literacy, and cognitive abilities.

If You Have Concerns, Seek an Evaluation

If you have any worries about potential speech or language delays with your child, don’t hesitate to reach out for help! Consulting a certified speech-language pathologist can provide an expert evaluation and recommendations customized for your child’s needs.

At Boise Speech and Hearing Clinic, our experienced speech therapists are here to support your child’s communication development every step of the way. Call us at (208) 793-7006 or visit www.boiseshc.com to schedule a free speech evaluation today. Early intervention makes a big difference!

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