Books are a gateway to language development. They cultivate everything from joint attention to imagination. They range in simplicity, from first words to first readers. And they range in diversity from childhood classics to non-fictional works. Most importantly, they are powerful tools used to promote vocabulary development. We use words to ask for things, to gain information, and to make comments about our environment. We use words to have conversations with people, to express our feelings, and to make jokes. And we use words in our inner-most thoughts. If we don’t have words for these functions of language, how do we understand, learn from, and interact with, our world?
Words are the foundation of learning. Children learn language best when it contains words that are of interest to them. So, when choosing books, look for the ones that they will want to look at. When language is first developing, choose books that have simple, vivid illustrations, and use short sentences. More words does not mean better. Also choose ones that are contextually meaningful; ones that will provide children with words they will use in their daily lives, or as they interact with their environment.
Books not only expose children to new words, but they also teach them how to put these words together. There are many books on the market with “…first words…” in the title. These are great for introducing new nouns. The next step is connecting a noun to a verb. So that instead of baby, you now teach baby drinking and instead of ball, you now teach throw ball. These are the basic elements of sentence development. From here, vocabulary and grammar go hand-in-hand.
By reading books to children, you are promoting literacy skills, conversational skills, and even social interactions. You are “Enhancing communication one word at a time”.