More Than Reading – Book “Play” to support and develop language                   

Toddlers and young children may be ready to engage in books and reading with you, but may not be able to listen to or follow the whole story, and that’s ok.  

Your child may enjoy holding the book, turn the pages and talking about what interests them. The main goals of reading with your child are promoting their interest, interacting with you and the book and learning new words in a fun way.  

Books can be used to enhance and build language as there is usually so much more happening on the page than what the words can tell us.  

How to set up your Book reading time for Optimal Communication and Interaction:  

  • Sit Face to Face with your child so you can both see the book and each others face. This allows you to pick up on their subtle communication such as smiling and reading their cues.  
  • Let your child control the book at their own rate. This means they are actively involved in turning pages and can spend as much time as they like on the pages that interest them.  

How to “READ”:  


React – Encourage the child to participate by pausing and waiting, and then respond appropriately, letting them know you have heard and understood. You can respond using words or smiling and encouraging with non verbal cues.  

Expand – Ask your child questions about what they can see on the page. Asking questions encourages development of general language and vocabulary as well as skills in comprehension, reasoning, inferencing, predicting and problem solving.  

Questions you can ask:  

Simple   Asking for more detail  
Point to the ones you saw  Say what I say  Show me the one you heard  Show me the…  Show me what you touched  Show me ….  What is this?  Which one did I point to?  Which one did you hear?     Find the one that is  Find the one that  How are these different?  Point to a part …  Point to the picture that goes with this  Show me  What is happening?  What is this for?  Who?  What?  Where?  

Add – Use a variety of words to add language to the interaction. Try to avoid just naming the pictures in the book as this will result in your child being exposed to mostly nouns. While nouns are important, your child also needs to be exposed to words that describe, action words, words for feelings, location words, words about time.  

Words you can add to expand your child’s Language  

Adjectives – describing   Verbs – doing words   Feelings   Prepositions – locations   Time  
Size   Shape  Colour  Smell  Texture   Running  Jumping  Swimming  Driving etc.   Happy  Sad  Angry  Surprised  Sleepy etc.   In/On  On top/Under  Behind/In Front of  Inside/Outside  On/Off  Between   He/she is going  He/she went  He/she will go  They are going  They went  They will go  

Discuss – Talk about how the topic or people in the book may relate to something your child has done or something they like. Children get a broader understanding of the world when you draw the connections for them between the book and their life. E.g If you are reading a book about a spider, talk about a time a spider may have scare or startled them.  

Remember your child will engage in their READing at their own pace according to their interests and what they find fun. Avoid asking too many questions and let your child explore, imagine and engage in a way they find meaningful.  

They don’t have to be able to read, to enjoy READing.  


Dickinson, D. K., Griffith, J. A., Michnick Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012). How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World. Child Development Research, vol. 2012. Available online at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/cdr/2012/602807/cta/.  

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