Using Books to Encourage Language

By Meryl Schnapp, MA, CCC-SLP

Reading to children from a young age has been found to foster cognitive and language development (Rodriguez et. al., 2009). Early exposure to books also helps to promote later literacy (Dickenson, 2012) in children. Incorporating reading into your child’s regular routine can help him/her learn to sit and attend to a book.

How do you choose books for your child?

Very young children often have limited attention spans and will not sit and attend to long stories. Choosing books with colorful pictures and a limited number of words per page can allow for meaningful interactions with your child. For children under 24-months look for sturdy board books that allow even the youngest children to handle pages with minimal damage.


Early word books, such as First 100 Words by Roger Priddy or First Words by DK Publishing, allow for the introduction of early vocabulary by providing children with pictures that are colorful and realistic. Try pointing to the pictures in the book and naming them with your child.


Books with repetitive text are great for toddlers. Some favorites include: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr. and It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Green Shaw, and Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann.

As your child gets to know the story, try pausing and allowing your child to fill in familiar words.

dear zoo

Lift the flap books often keep children engaged by allowing them to interact with the book. Some favorites include: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, Where is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz, and any of the Fisher-Price Little People books.

time to get dressed

Books can be a great way to introduce new skills such as getting dressed or potty training. Time to Get Dressed! by Elivia Savadier is a must-have for daily routine.

Choose some books that are relevant to your child’s interests. There are many engaging books about animals, trucks, food, etc. Look for books featuring favorite your children’s favorite characters such as Elmo and Dora the Explorer.

Enjoy your time reading together with your child!


Dickenson, D.K., Griffith, J.A., Golinkoff, R.M., Hirsh-Pasek, K. “How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World.” Child Development Research,Vol. 2012, 2012.

Rodriguez, E.T., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., Spellmann, M.E., et. Al., “The Formative role of home literacy experiences across the first three years of life in children from low-income families,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol. 30, no.6 pp. 677-694, 2009.