Something about this cold weather makes me want to curl up on the couch with a warm drink and a good book! That’s about the last thing I have time to do right now, but luckily I can curl up with Van and read him books, which is pretty nice too!
I think most of us agree that literacy is important! Books are excellent for working on emerging language skills with babies and toddlers! The key is to adapt the language in the book to better suit your child.
When reading a book to a baby or toddler, the child isn’t understanding every word. The child is probably attending to the pictures, so that’s what we want to talk about!
Van loves books! So what we normally do (if the book is appropriate for his age) is read through it (as written) once then flip back through it “reading” with only 1-2 word phrases. I try to name the objects and/or actions in the pictures with these phrases.
For a child less interested in books or a child with a language delay, I would start “reading” using only those simple 1-2 word phrases instead of reading the book as written.
Just as important here is pointing to the pictures! Initially, you would point to the picture and name the object/action. Or if it’s a word you think your child may know, don’t name it right away! Instead, just point to the picture without saying anything, look at your child, and wait. Count to 5 or 10 in your head to give the child a chance to try to name it or vocalize. If your little one does something to communicate, that’s great! Say the word back to them! If your little one doesn’t, that’s okay too. Just model the word you’d want him or her to say! That extra attention will help them learn!
You do want to be a little careful with this point and pause technique…if you do it on every single page your little one will probably get frustrated or bored! But it’s still a great trick for eliciting language when used sparingly.
Don’t be afraid to be silly and make things up as you go! It doesn’t matter if the story isn’t about what you’re talking about, as long as there’s a picture to go with it and you’re doing something to show your little one what you’re talking about! For example, Van’s book Baby’s First Library: Colors & Shapes there is one page with a picture of a “rectangular door”. I think this is a bit advanced for a 1 year old, so instead I just point to it and say “door” then “knock knock” while pretending to knock on it. Van thinks it’s the funniest thing! And it’s also teaching him a verb to go with the object.
Which brings me to my next tip…
Remember to generalize when possible! If you see a flower in a book, name it, then show your child a picture of a flower in the house! Then talk about flowers when you’re outside together! We don’t want children to simply memorize their books, we want them to learn that those pictures and words have meaning! Repetition is so important at this age and the more they see it and hear you say it, the easier it will be for them to build their vocabulary!
When choosing books, look for ones with simple bright pictures! Rhyming is great too especially for encouraging vocal play, just remember the pictures are where the vocabulary is coming from for our babies and toddlers! I love touch and feel books too, as they give that sensory input to help focus a child’s attention! Also as your baby transitions to toddlerhood, you’ll want to emphasize more verbs. This will help when he or she begins trying to form unique 2 word phrases.
Need book suggestions?
Books for babies and young toddlers:
Farm Animals Touch and Feel by Make Believe Ideas Ltd.
Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You by Dr Seuss
Baa Moo I Love You by Sandra Magsamen
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
Hide and Seek Snowman
Books with more actions (for toddlers):
Snow Babies by Ellen Anderson
The Lord’s Prayer by Lara Ede
And a Highlights Hello subscription is my absolute number 1 pick for ages birth-3! I can’t say enough great things about these little books!
Also have you heard about Imagination Library? It’s a book gifting program started by Dolly Parton. If you live in a qualifying zip code, you can get one free book per month for each of your children until they turn 5! They mail books to areas of the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. You get to keep the books, and they send a different book each month based on your child’s age bracket! Van is signed up and we love it! You have to register online, and like I said you have to live in a qualifying zip code but it’s totally free and they send the books to you! Definitely worth looking in to!