Reading to Young Children: Advantages for Early Language Learning

What do Goodnight Moon, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar have in common? In addition to being classic bedtime stories, these three titles were among the many books included in a recent study investigating the role of picture books in children’s language learning. In the September issue of Psychological Science, Jessica Montag and colleagues examined the types of language children are exposed to from picture books versus during conversations with parents. Notably, they found that picture books contained significantly more diverse word types than child-directed speech (i.e., parents’ conversations with children).  As highlighted by Montag and colleagues, diversity in word exposure can have significant implications for children’s early language learning abilities (e.g., increased speed of vocabulary acquisition).

In recent years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has emphasized the importance of parents reading to their children from as early as infancy.  Children who are exposed to books early in life often display more interest in the process of reading. Moreover, reading together offers an opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their child.

To promote a positive reading experience with your child, consider:

  • Making reading part of the bedtime routine. Sharing a story together can be a nice way to help your child unwind.
  • Offering your child a choice of which story to read. Children likely will be more invested if they feel they have had a voice in the decision.
  • Scheduling regular trips to the local library. In addition to providing a diverse literary selection to children (and their parents) who may grow tired of reading the same rotation of books, libraries offer developmentally appropriate programming to promote further children’s literacy and learning.