For Parents

For Parents

Reading the Right Way

What can we do so that children get the most out of reading books?

Time and time again, reading books to children has been found to be very beneficial in learning language, but is simply reading to our children every now and then enough?  A review article, “How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World” breaks down some steps that we can take to make sure our children are getting the most out of reading.

  1. We can read frequently to children. It has been found that the more often we read with our children, the more growth we see in our children’s language skills.  In fact, the frequency of reading has been found to play a more important role in cultivating language skills than socioeconomic status.  One study showed that the language skills of children with mothers from low income households who reported reading to their child daily were predicted by their book reading, not their socioeconomic status.
  2. We can begin to read to children at very young ages. An intervention study that looked at the effects of reading with children at different ages found that reading to children as young as 8 months old predicted better language abilities later on when the children were 12 and 16 months old.
  3. We can encourage children to participate when we read. Many studies have demonstrated that following children’s interests in pictures on the pages, or having a conversation relating what was read and is illustrated in the book to children’s experiences can help facilitate language growth.  Engaging in whatever part of the book that a child is interested in and talking about it is a great way to promote language.
  4. We can learn how to be responsive to children while we read. Research has shown that when parents give timely, positive responses to their children’s actions, children are able to focus their attention on the book for longer, and children’s complex language skills and vocabulary skills show an improvement once children can start talking.

Reading has been shown in countless studies to be an important part in developing language skills.  We can maximize these benefits by establishing a frequent reading routine with children as young as 8 months old.  As they show interest in pictures or parts of the story, we can learn to recognize these signs of showing interest, such as pointing, gazing, and vocalizing, and we can engage them in conversations about these topics by asking questions and talking about them in greater detail.  By incorporating all of these steps into reading, we can ensure that children are receiving the maximum benefits that reading has to offer.


Dickinson, D. K., Griffith, J. A., Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012). How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World. Child Development Research, 2012, 1-15. doi:10.1155/2012/602807