How can I use books to develop my child’s language skills?

By Kate
Speech Therapy

How can I use books to develop my child’s language skills?

This week we had a competition for a book voucher at our clinic. In therapy sessions I love to use books to model language when interacting with a child. There are so many different types of books to choose from nowadays to suit everyone’s age and interest! Reading books with your child can be a very effective way to build on their language skills. Here are some tips on how you can use books to build on language skills.

  1. To start with you can encourage your child to request a book by giving them a choice of two books. Encourage them to request for one by pointing or using a sound or word to ask for their preferred story book.
  2. If your child is labelling items or starting to label pictures and objects you can use some of the more tactile books to keep their interest and encourage them to use their language. Books with flaps and different textures create expectation around what is coming next. We want to find out what’s going to be ‘under the flap’ or coming on the next page. Books like ‘Where’s Spot?’ or ‘Dear Zoo’ are great for keeping children engaged in in this  way.

  3. If your child is communicating using mostly ‘one word’ utterances you can use picture story books to scaffold longer phrases e.g. if your child says ‘dog’ you can model ‘dog barks’ or ‘dog is running’. Encourage your child to imitate the model you have given them and give them lots of praise if they follow!
  4. Following instructions- books can be used to develop your child’s ability to listen to language and follow instructions e.g. ‘turn the page’, ‘point to cat’, ‘point to the house’. As your child’s language skills improve you can add another key word to the phrase e.g. ‘point to the black dog’, ‘point to the red car’.
  5. Building routines- reading stories regularly can help build up your child’s understanding of sequences. In a story a sequence of ideas happens in an orderly way e.g. first Jack bought the beans from the seller at the market, next he planted the seeds in his garden, next a big beanstalk started growing in his back garden.

  6. Reading stories with repetitive phrases supports a child’s ability to finish sentences. This builds the foundation for answering more complex questions in the future e.g. ‘run run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!’ As your child becomes more familiar with completing the phrases you can hold back from answering and encourage them to finish the sentence independently. Some examples of other books that use repetition effectively include ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ and ‘Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?’
  7. With longer stories we can encourage children to answer a range of different questions related to the story e.g. ‘what happened?’ ‘who?’ ‘where?’, ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ Questions can be introduced depending on your child’s comprehension skills. Generally it is best to start off with ‘what?’ ‘where?’ and ‘who?’ questions before asking ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ questions.Understanding sequence and order: as your child’s language skills develop you can ask them questions related to sequence and time e.g. what happened first? What happened in the end? What happened before the giant chased Jack out of the castle?
  1. Story reading encourages creativity and imaginative thinking. Children can be asked ‘what will happen next?’ and allowed time to think of a good ending to the story!
  2. Retelling stories helps develop your child’s spoken language skills. Putting the story in the correct order using grammatically correct sentences is a great way for your child to expand their language and sentence structure. It gives you an opportunity to model corrected examples of any mistakes your child makes. It also allows you to praise your child for how well they are using their language!
  3. Reading stories is a nice way to spend time together. It is a shared special time with your child where you are giving them your undivided attention. It also creates a positive experience with reading that can help with motivation in classroom activities further along in your child’s school experience.


If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you!


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