Language Skills for Young Children: Reading with Young Children

Language Skills

by Kathy Kuhl          How do we help small children become ready to read? How can we make it easier for wiggly kids to sit still while we read to them? How do we help little ones with learning challenges develop language skills?

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with a pediatric speech therapist, Caitlin. As the mother of two preschoolers, she practices what she endorses. It was fun to see how she read aloud and played with her kids and others as we shared nursery duty at church.

Caitlin shared some favorite resources for helping young kids build language skills. Whether you have small kids or not, you’re likely to have someone’s small child nearby this time of year. So keep reading: we’ve got plenty of suggestions for read-aloud time.

Beyond Baby Talk

First, here’s a book for parents and caregivers: Beyond Baby Talk. This book by Kenn Apel, PhD, begins by asking, “How does your child learn to hear and talk?” Subtitled From Speaking to Spelling: A Guide to Language and Literacy Development for Parents and Caregivers, this volume covers beginning language from infancy through reading, writing, and spelling. Caitlin said it’s a great, parent-friendly resource.

It’s copyrighted by the American Speech and Hearing Association. That’s the national association of speech therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, and others in related fields. With that endorsement, it’s going on my reading list. It’s available in paperback, as well as on Kindle and Nook. Caitlin recommends getting the second edition (blue cover), because it has more information about navigating technology.

How do you get a wiggly little one to engage with a book?

Another speech therapist, Adrienne, has a great YouTube channel where she shares practical ideas on how to help kids build language skills. The “Learn with Adrienne” playlist also features many interesting posts, including “How to Get Toddlers to Sit and Read with You.” I’ve embedded this 18-minute video below for you to watch. It’s worth the time. Though I’ve read thousands of books to children, Adrienne taught me plenty.

Developing toddler and preschool language skills

Adrienne’s specialty is helping young children with language delays, and her websites features content geared towards such challenges. On her website she offers a free milestones checklist, which is handy if you’re concerned that your toddler is falling behind on language skills.

I’ve subscribed to Learn with Adrienne and am looking forward to learning more from her. She also teaches sign language on YouTube. You’ll find her playlist link and her website below.

Reading Every Day

My mother-in-law reading to my daughter, who now reads to her daughters.

If you have a preschooler, you’re busy. You mean to read to them, but sometimes you get sidetracked. Here’s one tool that can help: “1000 Books before Kindergarten” is a program to promote reading at home, with downloadable reading logs and other resources to help you keep track of reading.

Because children’s brains develop most rapidly before age 5, reading aloud to them then is very important (though I advocate reading to older children and teens, too). Caitlin, my speech therapist friend, is a very engaged and thoughtful parent. But even she says posting these lists on her fridge reminds her to read to her kids more.

What if it’s not your kid that you’re reading to? You can share this reading program with your siblings, cousins, or neighbors. Many local libraries are involved, helping parents with tools and small prizes. Find a participating library with the link below. Then you can learn how they can help you or your friends and family.  

What are your favorite resources to develop language skills in young children? Please share below in the comments section.


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