How to Read with Kids to Promote Language Development

Reading with young children promotes language development and literacy skills. Learn strategies for sharing books based on what type of communicator the child is from a speech-language pathologist in this 4 part series.

Part 1 – Discoverers
Part 2 – Communicators
Part 3 – First Word Users
Part 4 – Combiners

How to Read with Kids to Promote Language Development {Part 1 - Discoverers}

I am so excited that my friend, Rachel, is here today.  She is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) with training in children’s literacy and clinical experience in developing reading and writing skills in children.  With a background in language acquisition, SLP’s can play a critical and direct role in the development of literacy in children as the connections between spoken and written language are well established.  Welcome, Rachel!

How to Read with Kids to Promote Language Development

Reading with your child can help your child learn about the world around them, facilitate language development, and enhance literacy skills.  But…it takes some work on the part of the parent to maximize these benefits.  In these next few posts, I will be sharing with you some ways to share books with your child so that they can get the most out of it.

First and foremost I want to give you some important things to keep in mind when interacting with your child, whether reading, playing, or shopping at the grocery store:

Let your child lead! Your child will be more interested in learning and talking about the items he/she is interested in. So it’s important to observe, notice what your child is attending to, and then take the interaction from there.

Wait:  This means stop talking, lean forward, and look at your child expectantly. By providing wait time, you help your child learn to initiate, develop turn-taking skills, and foster a sense that they are communicators with things to say.

What Type of Communicator is Your Child?

Furthermore, when using books with your child, it’s important to first consider at what stage they are at, what type of communicator are they? You’ll notice I have not put ages on these stages. I purposefully did this because I feel it’s most important to look at their abilities, and not age, when determining how to use books with your child.

  • Discoverers: earliest stage of communication, child responds to environment through crying, body movement, and facial expressions. For example, child may smile in response to seeing a familiar face.
  • Communicators: communicate by looking at you, making gestures, pointing, and making sounds.
  • First Words Users: imitate words they hear or begin to use words by themselves. Initially say one word at a time using words that represent people, objects, and actions. Use one word to express an entire message
  • Combiners: begins to use two-word combinations (i.e., “Want teddy.”)

How to use books with the Discoverer

  • Share books with your baby each day
  • Point to the pictures and use a natural and cheerful voice to label the items
  • Allow child to lead: this means it’s ok if they stick the book in their mouth, throw the book on the floor, skip pages, etc.…

Reading should be relaxing and fun. Don’t “force” the book on your child; remember what I said earlier about letting your child lead. Use books with a thick sturdy cover, aka board books (that way if they put it in their mouth, chew on it, etc. the book won’t be ruined). It’s also important that it have few words, and bright colorful pictures. Try to use books with rhyme, rhythm, repetition, or simple sentences. Interactive books (push a button for a sound, flaps to lift, textures to feel) are also a good choice and will help keep their attention.


Thank you Rachel for sharing such awesome tips. 

Book Recommendations for Discoverers


Aiden has always loved listening to us read.  When he was a baby, he preferred shorter board books just like Rachel said.  I read so many different books to him.  We have a large collection plus we check out books from the library.  When he was very little, I chose books that I would enjoy reading {now he chooses them}.  If Aiden wasn’t into a book I chose, I would simply grab another one.  Here are a few that Aiden and I enjoyed when he was a Discoverer.

Good Night: A Touch & Feel Bedtime Book by Melanie Mitchell
Begin Smart Night-Night, Baby by Begin Smart Books (cute little cloth book)
Touch and Feel: Farm (Touch & Feel) by DK Publishing (Aiden loved the textures and petting the animals)

Rachel will be back to talk with us about the Communicator stage tomorrow. {Read part 2 here.}
And I’ll be sharing more of our favorite books.

What are some of your favorite books to read to a Discoverer?

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This post was first published on November 29, 2011.

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