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Study: Picture Books Increase Parent-Child Conversation

If you, like me, enjoy Goodnight Gorilla with your young one at bed time, new research backs up the choice of a picture book rather than pushing Harry Potter on a toddler.

Researchers at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, have found that mothers use more complex language and have greater interaction with children when reading a wordless book than when reading a book with text. The findings have implications for increasing language and literacy among children with developmental disabilities, they say.

"We found that when creating a story or just responding to pictures, the parent used many words and complex sentence structures while engaging with their child. That level of engagement wasn't as present when reading books with text," said Sandra Gillam, a professor of education at Utah State with expertise in early language and literacy acquisition. "These results fall in line with the generally accepted belief that less structured activities, such as playing with toys or creating things with Play-Doh, elicit more productive language interactions between parent and child. These findings in no way diminish the importance of reading printed books, but incorporating interactions with wordless books is a way to build a more solid literacy foundation in children with developmental disabilities."

"These findings are particularly important for speech pathologists who have long believed that parents of children with developmental disabilities must be taught how to respond to their children's attempts to communicate. In actuality many parents naturally respond to their children when sharing wordless books with them. Parents may need assistance in recognizing the skills they are already using and be encouraged to transfer them from less-structured activities to literacy-based activities," added Gillam.

The research "Maternal Input During Book Sharing: Wordless vs. Printed Books" was recently presented at the Annual Convention of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association in Philadelphia.

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