The best 2 books for developing language skills

In previous blogs we have talked about how to support your child’s language skills. One thing that Speech and Language therapists recommend a lot is to read repetitive books with your child. In this blog we will look at some of the favourites and explore ideas on how to use them!

Why do we recommend reading time in terms of developing language skills?

There is something fun about reading, especially repetitive books. I know I have my favourites and it doesn’t take much persuading to get my story voice ready and delve in. So, if you enjoy reading children’s books then you may not need any other reason to do it.There is a lot of research evidence that points to the positive impact that reading can have on children as young as 8 months. So, during those pleasurable reading times you can feel extra certain that it is a worthwhile experience for all!

The research advocates reading, saying that it improves expressive language skills as well as later literacy skills. Between 3 and 5 years of age it has been found that regular exposure to reading activated parts of the brain that support story comprehension and visual imagery. These skills are essential for language and literacy learning.

Listening to someone read has many benefits too, so don’t worry if your child is not at the stage to join in with reading just yet. Some researchers suggest that before a child is reading ready, they need to be exposed to 20,000 hours of listening (Dehaene 2009). Where there is a history of hearing loss that amount of exposure may be triple (Pittman 2001)

The reputation of repetition!

Repetitive books are great! and children will choose to read the same book again and again when it has the same predictable structure. This is a great way to help them learn language because they become successful in remembering key words, phrases and ‘predicting’ the next part. As children can anticipate the next part of the story, it helps them to retain other important aspects like narrative structure, content, vocabulary with the reduced pressure of a complex narrative.

The repetition may also help to target speech sounds that your child is working on as they will have many opportunities to practice them.  Prepositions e.g. under, on, next to, and pronouns e.g. I, you, may also be used repeatedly within the same book and help your child to understand and use these concepts.


DEAR ZOO By Rod Campbell

This book is a winner when it comes to repetition, a fun and silly story line and lots of language opportunities.

Why this book is great.

This book captures the imagination of children with a lovely simple plot whereby a child writes to the zoo to ask for a pet. The middle of the story involved different ‘pets’ being sent but not being appropriate for different reasons. The story ends when the zoo finally sends a puppy. If you have a child that keeps asking you for a puppy, this may or may not be a great book to share together!

It is great for learning the early vocabulary of animals and provides an opportunity to talk about what animals live where, e.g. zoo animals compared to domestic animals.For a language boost, Dear Zoo is full of great describing words. As each animal gets sent back to the zoo it is explained why e.g. ‘he was too big/grumpy/fierce’.  Using words like this can be a starting point to then apply them to other things in the child’s environment e.g. ‘the house is tall’.

It can also be a great way to model longer sentences with your child using ‘because’ e.g. ‘they sent him back because he was too…’Using props you can role play this book, sending your child a different toy animal each time whilst they tell you why it is not appropriate and send it back to the zoo!

WHO'S MAKING THAT NOISE By Philip Hawthorn and Jenny Tyler

Why this book is great.

I love this book. On each page it asks the same question; Who’s making that noise, is it those noisy boys? And each time as you open the flap you find a different animal making a different noise.It offers a great opportunity to learn different prepositions as the animals are hiding in different place e.g. under the stairs or in the cupboard. Children can start to guess who is under the flap and what noise they are making.

The book has a lovely rhythm and the rhyming words helps support learning the language structures.The same author has written similar books for ‘Who’s making that smell?’ and ‘ Who’s making that mess?’Lots and lots of fun and I have had young children enjoy this book over and over again.

It can be fun to play this out with real animals hidden in different places. You can ask the child to close their eyes and then make a noise and prompt them to look in a certain place, finding all the toy animals or people along the way!

There are lots and lots more books that have fantastic rhymes and language learning opportunities. The most popular ones being ‘The Gruffalo’ or ‘Going on a bear hunt’. Repetitive reading of these books provides a great foundation to then build upon. For example, using the structure of ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ and adapting it to your everyday life activities:

‘We’re going on a shopping trip, we’re going to buy lots of food, we are hungry! Oh a trolley! We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we have to get in it! Up up up up!’

The learnt rhythm of the book will give your child a strong foundation to pin more everyday language to!

Using books over and over with your child is a fun way to reinforce different words and language structures. Playing with props to then act out the same or a similar story can also consolidate their learning and ensure that the fun continues!

Written by Carolyn Fox, Children's Speech and Language Therapist

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