Reading Aloud To Children Encourages Language Development

It's a well-known fact that reading aloud to children encourages language development. What might be less well known is that the way adults read aloud can add measurable impact.

"At different stages, the brains of babies and young children are primed to receive certain kinds of stimulation," says Vicki Vergeldt, founder and president of StorySTARS, Inc., on the web at "Parents can make the most of reading aloud by varying what and how they read aloud according to where their child is developmentally."

Research in the last two decades shows that the way we speak to babies and young children directly affects vocabulary size and can show up as higher scores on standardized language and intelligence tests later in a child's development, notes Shiri Katz-Gershon, Ph.D., StorySTARS' vice president of research and product development.

Prenatally and during the first five or six months of life, for example, babies enjoy and will benefit from books with rhymes. Rhymes cause adults to exaggerate the melody of their speech, to vary their pace, and often to move in ways that accentuate the rhymes. Babies love this and are very sensitive to it.

"This sensitivity is programmed into babies because it helps them figure out where individual words begin and end in the flow of speech," Dr. Katz- Gershon explains.

To put this knowledge into a format that is fun and easy for parents to apply with infants and young children, StorySTARS developed a product called The Big Bookmark(TM), also available in Spanish as El Gran Separador(TM). On a set of five illustrated oversized "bookmarks," read-aloud tips guide parents through the stages of language development. The tips vary by stage to include: how and what to read aloud, how to engage a baby's attention and enhance interaction while reading aloud, and how to include an older sibling.