Picture Books Enrich the Vocabularies of Children


For all of us who write, illustrate, and/or read picture books to children, here is proof of its power:

On Jan. 12, 2015, the New Yorker, published “The Talking Cure” by Margaret Talbot. She reported on a new initiative in RI to teach parents how to talk more with their toddlers.

Here’s an amazing letter response by Dom Massaro of Santa Cruz, Calif. (New Yorker, Feb. 2, 2015):

“Encouraging parents and caregivers to talk more to their babies more often is certainly important, but we must also consider how to expand upon the limited vocabularies of many caregivers. One solution is to read picture books. In the psychology department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we recently carried out a large replication of a classic study showing that print has a richer vocabulary than speech. We found that the variety of words in picture books was more extensive than that of parents talking to their children. Picture books were three times as likely as child-directed speech to use a word that isn’t among the most common English words; this result was found regardless of parents’ social class. Even the language quality of two adults talking to each other fell below that of picture books. Given the fact that word mastery in adulthood is correlated with early acquisition of words, a potentially powerful leveller of family wealth and class may be as simple as engaging in picture-book reading with babies.”

As a writer I find this Santa Cruz study inspiring.

What about you?

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