Using Books to Assist your child’s Speech and Language Development

It’s never too early to start reading books to children. Research has shown that reading books to babies can even have an effect on their future literacy development. Books have many benefits in helping children develop their speech, language, thinking, attention and literacy skills. In addition, they are a great way to bond with a child, providing the opportunity to spend quality time together. Stories can also be helpful in establishing a child’s daily bed time routine. So, get a book, and invest a few minutes into reading with your child every day.

You can do more with a story book than simply read it. Continue reading for some tips on how you can use a story book to facilitate your child’s speech, language and literacy development.

Literacy Development

• When reading, point to each individual word as you say it. This will help your child recognise the link between spoken and written words.

• Point to individual letters and talk about sounds (e.g. “ssss… here is the letter “S” (said “es”)… “es” makes the sssss sound… snake begins with ssss… can you hear that?… ssssnake… ssss”)

• Talk about rhyming words (e.g. “look, a cat and hat. These words rhyme… c-at.. h-at… they sound the same at the end… cat, hat”)

• Practice clapping out the syllables in words (e.g. “Look, a tiger… tiger has 2 claps… ti-ger… can you say “tiger” and clap out the parts?… and a butterfly… how many claps in butterfly?”)

Sentence Structure

• Reading books provides a great way to model different sentence structures. For example, if your child confuses the pronouns he and she, continually say sentences about the pictures beginning with he and she. For example, “He is riding a bike”; “She is eating a cake”.

• For a different example, if your child has difficulty joining sentences with the word because, say plenty of sentences about the pictures using the word because (e.g. “The dog is sleeping because he is tired”; “The boy is happy because he got a present”).

• After you have modelled the sentence structure, you may like to ask the child a question to encourage them to say the sentence structure  – and it’s ok to give them the answer first! For example, “The girl is drinking juice because she is thirsty”, then ask “Why is the girl drinking?”. If the child does not respond with the word because, reinforce it again, “She is drinking because she is thirsty”.


• Books are an excellent way to teach vocabulary. It doesn’t matter what level your child is at; whether they speak in one or two word sentences or in nine word sentences, you can teach your child new words while looking at books. Point to pictures and name them for younger children, or model more advanced words in sentences for older children (e.g. “The boy is peeping in the box”).

Receptive Language/Auditory Memory

• While reading the story or looking at the pictures, ask your child questions. This will develop their thinking and help them to engage with what is being read to them (‘Blanks Levels of Questioning’ provides questions to ask children at different levels of development. If you would like a copy of these questions, email me and I’ll happily email you a copy).

• Give your child directions to follow (e.g. “Point to the red bucket”). To make directions harder, give your child 2 or 3 part directions to follow (e.g. “Point to the red bucket, the boy, then the blue bird”).

• Ask questions about what you’ve read, (e.g. “Where is the boy going?”).

• Ask your child to retell the story in their own words, or to repeat sentences after you.


• At the end of the story, ask your child what happened first, in the middle, and then at the end of the story.

• Develop your child’s ability to make predictions by asking questions such as, “What do you think will happen next?”.

• Encourage inferencing skills by asking questions such as, “Why is the boy carrying an umbrella?”.


• If your child presents with sound errors in their speech, looking at stories books provides a good opportunity to practice speech sounds. Help your child say the sound correctly when naming pictures (e.g. if your child says “tat” for cat, ask them, “What’s this?”. Encourage them to keep their tongue down so they can say a “k” sound, “c-at… cat”). Once your child is able to say the sound correctly in words, encourage them to tell the story in their own words to practice the sound in sentences or at conversation level.

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