Research shows that language development can be facilitated through interactive joint picture book reading. In an older, yet very interesting study published in Developmental Psychology, Whitehurst and colleagues (1988) examined the relationship between early picture book reading and language development by training a group of parents to use what is referred to as dialogic reading techniques with their children. Essentially, the parent was trained to encourage their child to actively participate in the story, to provide informative feedback to their child, and to show progressive change based on their child’s developing abilities.
The children in this study ranged in age from 21 months to 35 months, and the home-based intervention occurred over the course of 4 weeks. Amazingly, the children of the parents who used the dialogic reading techniques (this was the intervention group of subjects; those in the control group read to their children in their usual manner) scored nearly 8.5 months above those in the control group on a test of expressive language. Gains of 6 months for the intervention group were still evident 9 months following the post test!!!! Moreover, the MLU (mean length utterance) for the intervention group was 2.55 as compared to the control group who had an average MLU of 2.04. Those in the intervention group also exhibited a higher frequency of phrases and a lower frequency of single words.
Now, keep in mind that this study isn't suggesting that dialogic reading techniques are necessary for language development and acquisition. BUT, it does seem that using these techniques while reading a book with your child can accelerate oral language skills.
Interested in learning how to use dialogic reading techniques with your child?
Check out Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers, written by Grover J. Whitehurst (the researcher who conducted the aforementioned study)
Here is another good "how to" article on using dialogic reading with young children.
Original Study Reference:
Whitehurst, G.J., Falco, F.L., Lonigan, C.J., Fischel, J.E., DeBaryshe, B.D.,
Menchaca, & Caulfield, M. (1988). Accelerating language development through picture book reading. Developmental Psychology, 24(4), 552-559.