Last week research came out from the University of Waterloo finding that children hear more complex language from parents when they read a storybook with only pictures compared to the traditional picture vocabulary book. They recorded moms reading to their toddlers both types of books. “What we found was that moms in our study significantly more frequently used forms of complex talk when reading the picture storybook to their child than the picture vocabulary book,” said Professor O’Neill. They found that mothers often related the picture to the child’s experience or asked them to predict what might happen, both of which build language through higher level thinking.
As speech pathologists we know this to be true. When I speak to new moms groups about reading to their babies, I always tell them to talk about the book, not just read it. I suggest they “Hang out on a page,” which is just what this research is suggesting. Describe the picture, talk about what the animal is doing, where did you see that animal around our neighborhood, what will he do with the nut? etc.
Talking about the connection from one page to the next is fun too. I just picked up a new book, “Green” by Laura Caccaro Seeger which is a Caldecott Honor book for good reason. Exploring all the shades of green and what resides in those habitats, the author also links one page to another with cut outs that become something new on the next page. Leaves jutting out from a tree in “forest green” become little fish following a “sea green” turtle in the coral reef. These cutouts provide a wonderful opportunity for prediction, as kids guess that the section of “lime green” lime might turn into the ladle of a spoon holding “pea green” peas. Take up the challenge of picking up this almost wordless book and provide some enhanced language to feed to your child!
Other favorite wordless books:
Bluebird by Bob Staake
Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman
Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Sea of Dreams by Dennis Nolan
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman