Speech and Reading Tips for Parents

Children generally understand far more than they are able to articulate themselves. Language can develop smoothly and continuously, or in jumps and spurts—there’s a lot of variation in the onset of expressive language.   

Because the development of speech varies, it is important not to compare your child’s language development to other children’s language development. Each child develops differently. As a general guideline: 

  • Between two and three years of age, your child’s utterances are usually one, two, or three words long. Your toddler may ask for or draw your attention to something by naming it (“Elephant”), one of its attributes (“Big!”), or by commenting (“Wow!”). 

  • Between ages three and four, sentences become longer as your child can combine four or more words. They talk about things that have happened away from home, and are interested in talking about pre-school, friends, outings and interesting experiences. Speech is usually fluent and clear and other people can understand what your child is saying most of the time. 

  • Between ages four and five, your child can construct long and detailed sentences (“We went to the zoo but we had to come home early because Josie had a stomach ache.”). He or she can tell a long and involved story sticking to the topic, and using grammar. Your child can communicate easily with familiar adults and with other children. 

How can I facilitate my child’s reading readiness? 

As with speaking, children develop their reading abilities at different ages. You can help your child become used to reading, however, by doing some of the following:  

  • try to read to your child each day 

  • find the time when you and your child are relaxed and interested in reading, such as bedtime or after a nap 

  • let your child choose the books and pages to read 

  • let your child hold the book and turn the pages 

  • tell a familiar story, but leave out words or parts of sentences for your child to fill in 

  • let your child describe the pictures and tell the story to you 

  • write down your child’s homemade story and read it to him or her 

Do not teach your child letter or number names until they are close to four years of age, unless they are interested (and asking, “What is that letter?”). Teaching letter names too early is frustrating and may turn your child off from pre-reading skills. If your child periodically does not show an interest in reading, continue to read to your child as he plays quietly. Eventually, the child will again be eager to participate in reading. 

When choosing a book to read to your child: 

  • the pictures should be clear, with not too many objects on a page 

  • the pictures should tell a story that makes sense without the printed word 

  • stories should be appropriate for the child’s age level 

  • books should help add new words to the child’s vocabulary 

Many school and libraries offer lists of books by age range and subject matter. Some books may teach new speech sounds, concepts (i.e. farm animals, things we wear, colors) or morals (how to share etc.)