Book Suggestions to Support Children's Speech and Language Skills
Reading aloud, a tradition in so many families is not only a way of bonding with a child but is actually a wonderful way of helping children to reach their full academic potential as they grow. Reading books exposes children to new vocabulary allowing them to hear words or phrases which they may not hear otherwise in their day to day lives. Over time the words may make more sense to your child and they may start repeating them or spontaneously saying some of the words that they read in the stories. Reading with your young child will teach them to follow words across the page from left to right and to turn pages. These pre-reading skills benefit children by helping them to become better readers later on. School-age children who began reading with a parent at a very young age perform higher in all subjects, including math. Reading also benefits the child by improving concentration, imagination, and creativity. Read on for book suggestions based on age/language development and tips on how to carry over themes from the book into daily activities.
The following are my top children’s book recommendations to help support children’s speech and language skills:
Birth to 3 years old
Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
This silly board book is perfect for our youngest children and those with language difficulties. The simple, repetitive writing and dynamic pictures of the mischievous gorilla give simple comprehension cues and opportunities for discussion.
Extended learning: Further language and speech practice by engaging in a game of “Animal Hide and Seek.” Hide toy animals in a room and provide your child with a verbal clue or description to find the animal.
Baby Love Books by Helen Oxenbury
These board books are perfect for this age group. The book is short and the language is simple. Your child will be drawn to the pictures of other babies playing.
Extended learning: Further language and speech practice by showing the child what the action words in the book mean. If the figure in the book is being tickled, then tickle your child or if they are being bounced, put your child on your lap and gently bounce them. This allows them to make a connection between the word and its meaning.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle
In this book, parents can stimulate language by labeling colors and animal names. The repetitive and rhythmic nature of the writing is perfect for predicting what comes next.
Extended learning: Help your child make real-world connections by labeling animal names and colors as you see them in your natural environment. Get down on their eye level and point at the animal/color. For example, if you see a duck in the pond at the park point to it an say, “Look! Duck! Yellow Duck!”
3 to 5 years old
Meow and the Little Chairs by Sebastian Braun
At this stage, toddlers and children are ready to engage with books with longer sentences. They may often memorize parts of simple stories and join you in “reading.”
This colorful book engages the reader with collage illustrations of animals moving around. What makes this an excellent book for speech and language is that it invites the young child to join in the movements that the characters engage in throughout the story.
Extended learning: The sentences are short and bold. Each page features large drawings and one sentence per page, allowing the parent to encourage the child to follow along as the parent reads aloud.
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina
This humorous, simple story teaches children about problem and resolution. The story is repetitive and includes patterns, and colors, perfect for early readers.
Extended learning: After reading, take turns describing and pointing out the different hats that the peddler is selling.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault
This book is great for speech and language development because it is loaded with sounds that your child is learning and it is filled with alphabet letters that your child may be learning to identify.
Extended Learning: Name letters aloud. Use a beach ball to play catch as you say the entire alphabet back and forth. Have a letter scavenger hunt where children have to find hidden letters in a room. Have your child say the name of a word that begins with the letter.
6 to 8 year olds
Stories of Wizards (Usborne Young Readers, No. 1) by Christopher Rawson
“Wizards” is part of the Young Reader Series by Usborne Children’s books. The books in this series are a natural transition from picture books to chapter books and are just right for those starting to read on their own. “Wizards” includes line drawings and the print is large enough to keep the child engaged and keep them from becoming overwhelmed. The book contains several short stories that are divided into chapters.
Extended learning: Do a craft together! Help your child make a wizard hat and wand. See if your child wants to use these materials in a pretend play. Talk to your child about different items that they can “cast spells” on.
March of the Mini Beasts by Ada Hopper
This is the first in an adventure series called “The DATA Set.” This is a great book for young readers who have started reading independently and would enjoy a STEM-infused plot. It is kid-friendly fantasy and the cliffhanger at the end keeps kids wanting to read the next installment.
Extended learning: After the child finishes the book, ask “How many times have you tried something new and it turned out differently than you thought it would?” Talk about the connection between their response and what they read in the story. Take it a step further and teach your child about taste buds and try new fruits and vegetables together!
The Last Firehawk: The Ember Stone by Katrina Charman
If your child likes adventure and magic but isn’t quite old enough for the likes of the Harry Potter series then they might just get hooked on The Last Firehawk series. This chapter book’s main character is a young brave owl who wants to prove himself to his elders as he takes an adventure with three friends to learn about a magical stone.
Extended learning: Make your own volcano, shield or coat of arms. Or ask your child to create a map and for a treasure hunt.
Here are some additional tips to make your reading experience more fun and engaging for you and your child:
Sit together and read at a time of day when reading can be fun and relaxing. Younger children may have a shorter attention span, so try reading for a few minutes at a time at first and don’t be discouraged if they want to move around while you are reading to them.
Read the same story again and again. The repetition will help your child learn the language.
Choose books with rhymes or songs. As they develop, ask them to fill in words. (i.e.“The wheels on the bus go .... all through the……..”)
If there are pictures in the book, point to them and talk about them. “Look at the silly monkey!”You can also ask him to point to certain pictures. “Where’s the cat?”
Talk about events in your child’s life that relate to the story.“That bear has blue pajamas just like you!”
Ask your child questions about the story. “Is that cat hiding?” As they get older you can ask more complex questions like “What do you think the monkey will do next?”