Reading with your child is a great way to connect, bond, and interact with your child. Not only does reading provide an opportunity to foster a loving relationship, but it also has benefits in speech and language development.
Here are 10 reasons you should be reading to your child:
1. Natural interaction that teaches speech basics early
Even before your baby begins to babble, they listen to you model speech sounds, stress, rhythm, tone, and vocabulary. For a baby to learn speech and language, It's essential to speak and interact with them constantly. Reading out loud is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate speech early in your child's language development journey.
2. Picture/word association
As you and your child are reading together, you can point to pictures in the books and make associations with words. Even if your baby is too young to understand the book's content, you can follow their lead and associate words with the images they are interested in.
You can associate words with pictures by naming the objects (puppy, ball), or by associating descriptive words (soft, fast), action words (jump, sleep), locations (beside, on top), or concepts like time (yesterday, later). So, instead of pointing out the puppy and the ball, you can expand on that and say, "The puppy is fast. He's chasing the bouncy ball." Doing this will help to grow their vocabulary and understanding of language.
3. Learn new and increasingly challenging vocabulary
Children's brains are primed for learning new vocabulary! You may have noticed this after they picked up a brand new word after you stubbed your toe and muttered something you shouldn't have. Day-to-day life will provide opportunities to demonstrate new language by surprise. Reading is the chance to teach your child new vocabulary with a little bit more intention.
You can read new words slowly, repeat them, change your pitch, and use picture association to emphasize a new word. If it's age-appropriate, you can ask your child to repeat it and if they understand what it means.
4. Introduce speech sounds early
Many children's books are themed and written to teach your child some foundational language skills. For example, your child's favourite animal book gives you a chance to practice making animal sounds. Those animal sounds are fun ways to learn speech sounds! Asking "what sound does the cow make?" helps your child practice the "mmm" and "oooo" sounds, and "moo" blends them together.
5. Develop listening and comprehension skills
If your child has a speech delay or disorder and cannot make speech sounds or repeat sounds easily, they still get many benefits from reading. When you read aloud to a child who has speech difficulties, it still develops their ability to listen to and understand the introduced concepts.
6. Reading books teach speech rhythms
As you read through a story, your child will pick up on the speed, tone, and inflections you are making. This will help them to understand how words flow together to make longer phrases. It will also teach them how voices change when you ask a question or when you feel different emotions like sadness, anger, or joy.
7. Expanding communication
When you read to your child and introduce different age-appropriate sentence structures, your child will start to make more word connections. Instead of saying "puppy run ball," your child will learn to expand by saying, "the puppy runs after the ball!"
8. Build on the understanding of experiences
When you are reading a book to your child, and the character is going through a situation or feeling that your child can relate to, dig a little deeper. They will grow in their understanding of experiences in their life. If Timmy drops his ice cream in the book and is sad, you can ask your child if they would feel sad if they dropped their ice cream too.
9. Develop critical thinking skills
Reading out loud allows you to develop your child's critical thinking skills. Instead of simply reading a story and calling it a day, take the time to ask your child what they think will happen next or why that character is making that decision.
By asking your child to think about things outside of what is contained in the story, it helps them grow and develop their imagination and critical thinking skills.
10. Teach new concepts in a fun way
Reading books is a great way to introduce new concepts to children in a fun and comfortable way. If they are already used to reading a story every day after you get home from work, it will be easy to introduce books on topics and concepts that are new to them. If they like their astronaut toy, you can introduce topics like space and planets and concepts like gravity to them through books. This will also introduce them to different speech sounds, vocabulary, and knowledge.
Cullinan & Bagert, (2013, November 17). Reading with your child. Retrieved May 07, 2021, from https://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-your-child#:~:text=Reading%20books%20aloud%20to%20children,to%20understand%20the%20written%20word.&text=Even%20after%20children%20learn%20to,you%20to%20read%20aloud%20together
Reach Out and Read, (2014, September 23). Reading Together: Tips for Parents of Children with Speech and Language Problems. Retrieved May 07, 2021, from https://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-together-tips-parents-children-speech-and-language-problems
Merwin, C. (2018, May 03). A speech therapist's guide to reading with your child ~ speech pathways. Retrieved May 07, 2021, from https://www.speechpathways.ca/2018/01/12/reading-with-your-child/#:~:text=As%20Speech%20Language%20Pathologists%2C%20we,with%20natural%201%3A1%20interaction
Hanks, H. (2007, July 25). Reading with your toddler. Retrieved May 07, 2021, from http://mommyspeechtherapy.com/?p=48