It’s no big surprise that young children first learn language by listening to adults talk to them. Nor is it a surprise that reading aloud to kids is important to their success, both in school and work. What might be a bit more surprising: Picture books have, on average, around 70 percent more unique words than conversations directed at kids, according to a new study, suggesting that reading to kids could help improve their vocabularies.
“A large literature indicates that talk directed to the child—rather than adult-adult or background talk—is the core data on which early language learning depends,” Indiana University psychologists Jessica Montag, Michael Jones, and Linda Smith write in Psychological Science, and research on early language learning has focused much attention on conversations between parents and children. At the same time, a few studies have shown a link between parents reading to their children and early vocabulary learning, though no one seems to have investigated exactly why that is.
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