With the newest addition to our family, I have been thinking a lot about the best types of books to read to babies and young children. Reading aloud to babies and young children well before they are of speaking age is an important bonding experience because it encourages vocabulary development and improves communication skills. If you head to your local bookstore, you’ll find entire sections devoted to children’s literacy and language development. To help you save time sifting through the shelves, I’ve made a list of my four favorite (and effective) types of language development books for children.
High Contrast Books
High contrast books are great way to introduce infants to pictures in books. The high contrast colors, shapes and patterns of the images give babies something simple to focus on and holds their attention for a brief period of time. Colors that have the greatest contrast (black/white) are the easiest for the baby to see. I tried Hello Baby: Flash Cards from Priddy Books with my one-week-old infant (see below) and was shocked by her attentiveness. I held the high contrast cards about a foot away from her in her line of sight. Initially, she held her gaze on the picture only briefly before looking away. However, the more I presented the cards to her the longer she held her gaze.
Favorite high contrast books:
Look, Look by Peter Linenthal
Hello Baby: On the Go by Roger Priddy
Picture books are great for babies and young children. The illustrations and text are intertwined; working together to tell the story. In addition to reading the book directly to the child, I also like to “talk” about the books. “Talking” about the illustrations instead of just reading the text and flipping to the next page, allows you to follow your child’s lead and talk about what interests him or her in the book. When you child is given time to analyze a book’s pictures, he or she will be less of a passive listener and more of an active participant in story time. If your child is highly motivated by a particular image on a page, you are able to create a dialog about what is happening in the pictures, thus encouraging speech development.
Favorite picture books to “talk” about:
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
Repetitive/Predictable books are another great way for young children to be involved in the storytelling experience. The repetition in this genre helps children understand language and how stories are put together. The language patterns in the story will give your child the chance to anticipate what is going to happen next and allows him or her to complete the phrase or sentence.
When reading a repetitive/predictable book, simply read through the story first to help the child become familiar with the text. After finishing the book, immediately re-read the story. When reading the story a second time, pause before the last word of the repeated phrase. For example, in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, say, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you (pause),” and then wait for the child to verbalize, “See?” If at first your child doesn’t verbalize “See,” don’t worry! You can model the desired word and have him or her repeat after you. The more you read, the more your child will hear and understand the language patterns in the story. Soon enough your child will begin to produce the word or phrase on his or her own.
Favorite repetitive Books:
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
Rhyming books are fun for parents and preschoolers alike! Not only can rhyming words be silly, but listening to the rhythm within a rhyming story can be soothing. In addition to having fun when reading rhyming books, the ability to rhyme is a reading readiness skill. Rhyming words help a child notice and manipulate sounds within words and begin to help identify word families. When listing rhyming words the child will identify words that share common sounds. For example: hat and rat both end with -at.
Favorite Rhyming Books:
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Dinosaur Roar! by Paul Stickland