Interaction during reading helps toddlers develop language

New York: Next time you read to your baby, pay attention to the babbling as interaction is the key to language development during reading, reveals a new study.

The researchers found that babies made more speech-like sounds during reading than when playing with puppets or toys. They also discovered mothers were more responsive to these types of sounds while reading to their children than during the other activities.

“A lot of research shows that book reading even to infants as young as six months of age is important to language outcomes, but I am trying to explain why by looking at the specifics, which could be responding to speech-like sounds,” said study co-author Julie Gros-Louis from University of Iowa in the US.

“If we know what specific interactions are occurring between care-giver and child and we can link that to language outcomes, then it would not just be telling parents, ‘Read a lot of books to your kids,'” Gros-Louis added.

The study looked at how mothers responded to their 12-month-olds during book reading, puppet play, and toy play.

Researchers observed the interactions of 34 mothers and their 12-month-olds during three 10-minute periods of different activities: puppet play, toy play, and book reading.

The babies were seated in a high chair to control proximity to their mothers and to prevent them from getting up and moving around the play room.

The study also found that no matter the context, mothers’ responses to speech-like sounds were often imitations or an expansion of the sound.

“The current findings can contribute to understanding how reading to preverbal infants is associated with language outcomes, which is not well understood in contrast to reading interactions with older toddlers,” according to the study.

The study was published in the journal Language Learning and Development.