Why picture books are best for teaching words to children

Study shows books with no words improve language skills


While traditionally, parents use vocabulary books to teach their children about language, a new study has shown that books with no words may actually be more effective.


The research, conducted by University Of Waterloo in Ontario, observed 25 pairs of mothers and children as they read two books; one with only pictures and one which contained a simple narrative.

Psychologists found that while reading the books that contained words, only 15% of the mothers’ language was defined as ‘complex’ (using different tenses and sophisticated words) while when reading picture books, this was 25%.

The explanation for this could be that when words were not provided, the mothers would discuss the pictures with their child, asking questions and giving detailed explanations.

Professor Danielle O’Niell , who led the study, has commented, “When reading the picture story, we would hear (the mothers) say things such as ‘Where do you think the squirrel is going to go?’ or ‘We saw a squirrel this morning in the back yard.”

“But we didn’t hear this kind of complex talk as often with vocabulary books, where mentioning just the name of the animal, for example, was more common.”

Looking for some picture book inspiration? Discover Madeformums’ 100 best books for babies and children


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