Teaching Language Concepts to children through Stories and Illustrations - Enappy.com

Making the Most out of Reading: Teaching Language Concepts through Stories and Illustrations

The benefits of reading to your children are infinite. They can learn rhyming, alliteration, phoneme-grapheme correspondence, and word recognition; it can improve their vocabulary, creativity, and imagination; it can strengthen a child and a parent’s bond; and the list goes on.

In addition to reading just the words on the page, there are other ways that books can be used to teach a variety of language concepts. This can be achieved through discussing the story and the illustrations on the page. Below are some guidelines on how to implement this during story time:

Vocabulary and environmental sounds

Books are some of the best ways to teach basic vocabulary and early environmental sounds (e.g. beep, moo, vroom, woah, uh-oh, etc.) to children. Flipping through the pages, point out the illustrations and any associated sounds they may make. Altering your voice and making funny sounds is even better. This makes reading exciting and enjoyable for children, and many times, they are happy to act out the sounds or label the words with you.

  • Here is the cow; he says, “Moooooo.” The car over here says “vrooomm.” “Woahhhh, he almost fell down.”

Pronouns: You can use the illustrations to target third-person pronouns such as “he, she, they, him, her, them.” To do this, you can simply point out to your child what the people in the book are doing.

  • He is jumping, and she is running. They are going to eat a sandwich. He got the ball and gave it to her.

You can teach them how to take the perspective of others to use first and second-person pronouns “I, me, we, you.”

  • What do you think the mom is going to say? I think she will say, “I am happy that you brought me a flower.” We pick flowers sometimes, don’t we?


A lot of children struggle with prepositions or spatial concepts. Utilizing the illustrations, you can teach words such as “in, on, under, beside, between, behind,” etc.

  • That boy is hiding behind the tree. His sister is on the see-saw. The duck is swimming in the pond, and there is a frog beside the pond.
Teaching Language Concepts to children through Stories and Illustrations - Enappy.com

Temporal concepts

The concept of time is difficult to comprehend in the earlier years. Discussing time (e.g. today, yesterday, tomorrow, last year, etc.) or the order of events (e.g. first, second, third, beginning, end, before, after, etc.) while reading can contribute to a child’s understanding of this topic.

  • Today, Jill went to school. Yesterday was her birthday, so she is excited to tell the kids about it.
  • First, Bill made the dough. Second, he rolled the dough balls. Third, he put them in the oven. Last, he had yummy cookies to eat.
  • Before he goes outside, he has to put on his shoes. After he plays outside, he will need to take a bath.

Regular and irregular past tense

Learning tense is a challenge for children, especially the irregular past tense forms (e.g. got, broke, ate, etc.). Past tense can be easily targeted by referring to the book illustrations or discussing the story.

  • Oh no, he fell off of his bike, and he cried. His mom helped him. She picked him up and drove him to the doctor.

Action verbs and present progressive (is verb+ing):

Books are excellent resources for teaching action words and the present progressive. Illustrations often incorporate action words that we may not encounter in our daily lives, and they provide an excellent model for children on how to use them.

  • John is trimming the trees. His ladder is wobbling. The branches are crashing to the ground.

“Wh” questions

Answering questions can be intimidating for some children, as they may be fearful that they will provide the wrong answer. Books are a great place to practice asking and answering questions. If your child is uncertain of how to ask/answer questions, you can provide a model to assist them, as shown below.

  • What is the boy doing? Where is he at? When does he go to school? Why is he scared?
  • When did he eat a snack? He ate a snack after he got off the bus.
  • What could the boy ask his mother? He could ask, “Where are my favorite shoes?”
Teaching Language Concepts to children through Stories and Illustrations - Enappy.com

Social skills

Books tap into a variety of social situations that children may encounter in real life. We can use these situations to practice how to handle them. First, prompt your child with the question, “What would you do or say?” and if they are unsure, you could provide an appropriate response.

  • Sally lost her favorite toy. How do you think that she feels? What do you think that we could say to Sally? We could tell Sally, “I am sorry that you lost your favorite toy. I lost my favorite toy once, and I felt sad. Maybe I could help you look for it.”


Reading and book illustrations provide an excellent opportunity to address inferencing/problem-solving. You can ask your child to guess “what will happen next” or “why” before you turn the page. If they say, “I don’t know,” encourage them to guess and provide them some clues.

  • Let’s see, Susie put on her raincoat and rain boots, and she grabbed her umbrella before she went outside. Why did she do this?
  • Uh-oh! Jimmy’s baseball broke the window. What do you think will happen next?
As you can see, in addition to reading the words on the page, so many additional language concepts can be taught in response to the text and through using the illustrations. Remember, it is important that as you are teaching these different concepts, you emphasize the words you want to teach, as modelled by the bolded words above. This will draw attention to the word, which can help the child better understand and recall what you are teaching. Reading and discussing illustrations daily can greatly benefit your child’s use and understanding of a variety of language concepts and their vocabulary.
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