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It’s no secret that reading to your toddler is a great way to help them develop their language skills and vocabulary. Here are tips for making the most of story time.

Reading & Language Development

Language development encompasses the earliest understandings of sounds as something meaningful. You’re sure to notice your little one responding to sounds—not just words, but tones of voice—long before they’ve figured out how to express themselves. This is called receptive language and developing this comes before the ability to respond in kind.1

By the time your little love is old enough for school, they’ll know an average of 5,000 words—which means they’ll need to learn, at least, three-and-a-half words a day.2 Reading is the perfect way to help them begin developing a robust vocabulary and grasp of language.

Reading & Language Acquisition

Language acquisition is how we grow to understand and use language. Here, language includes non-speech sounds, gestures, body language, and spoken language. Once a growing baby comes to understand that sounds have meaning (development of language), acquisition comes through the process of learning how to use those sounds to express themselves—typically through interaction, rather than passively hearing language.3

While reading to your little one may feel like inviting them into a passive moment, it doesn’t have to be that way. Books are a great way to promote responsiveness between you and your little one.2 When they’re engaged, they’re more likely to ask questions about or repeat (or pretend “to read”) what’s on the page. Ensuring your child hears enough words to build that 5,000+ word vocabulary is the first step; the next step is empowering them to begin the language acquisition portion by providing opportunities to hear and use those words in grammatically and syntactically correct contexts.2

Tips for Using Reading for Language Development & Acquisition

Here are some tips for starting on your reading-out-loud journey with your little love:2,4

  • Start early. While it’s never too early to start reading to your little one, you may notice that your baby will start developing more interests in books at around 6 months of age.
  • Read often. The more often you read to your child, the better chance they have at having appropriate preparedness for using and learning language in a school setting. Read as often as you can. There’s no set frequency—do it is often as you can.
  • Engage on more than one level. Books that are tactilely interesting (fuzzy or made of different materials) or visually unique (think pop-up books) are just as important as bright colours and topics that you know your little love to be interested in.
  • Go beyond the narrative. Don’t feel confined to words on the page—point out actions taken by characters, name objects, and invite your toddler to talk about what they see in the illustrations or what they think might happen next.

Not only will reading with your toddler continue to help them build language skills, it can also go a long way toward instilling a life-long love of reading and learning.