This week we summarize research about strategies parents can use to teach their children new words and strategies parents can use during shared book reading to improve language skills.
Teaching a novel word: Parenting styles and toddlers’ word learning
Parents play an important role in helping their children to learn new words. Researchers that study word learning investigate which strategies work best. The researchers in this study had parents of 18- to 24-month-olds teach their children a new made-up word (“Wug”). The researchers analyzed the statements and questions that parents used when teaching their children the new word and that found that when parents used more “scaffolding” strategies, such as describing the new word or asking their children questions about the new word, children were better able to recognize the newly taught word in an assessment. Children of parents who simply labeled the word (“it’s a wug”) did not recognize the word as well. These results suggest that teaching parents to use these specific “cognitive scaffolding” behaviors may help their children to learn new words more efficiently.
Shared reading with preverbal infants and later language development
There is a great deal of research showing that reading with toddlers and preschoolers is associated with improved language skills. However, there is less research on how reading with young infants might be related to the development of language skills. In this study, the researchers observed mothers and their infants looking at a wordless picture book together. They observed them when the children were 10 months of age and 18 months of age. The researchers found that the number of questions that mothers asked their children while looking at the book at 10 months of age was positively related to the children’s language skills at 18 months of age. Additionally, they found that children’s engagement with the book at 10 months of age was positively associated with their pragmatic skills at 18 months of age. These findings highlight the benefits of sharing books with children of all ages, even infants. They also support encouraging parents to ask questions during book reading in order to help improve their children’s language development.