Want your kids to develop better vocabulary? Pick a picture book for their bedtime story!

Picture books which tell a story may be better at improving a toddler’s language skills than educational vocabulary books, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada have found that children hear more complex language from parents when they read a storybook with only pictures compared to a picture-vocabulary book.

“Too often, parents dismiss picture storybooks, especially when they are wordless, as not real reading or just for fun,” said the study’s author, Professor Daniela O’Neill.

“But these findings show that reading picture storybooks with kids exposes them to the kind of talk that is really important for children to hear, especially as they transition to school,” said O’Neill.

The study recorded 25 mothers while they read to their toddlers both a wordless picture storybook and a vocabulary book with pictures.

“What we found was that moms in our study significantly more frequently used forms of complex talk when reading the picture storybook to their child than the picture vocabulary book,” said O’Neill.

The researchers were especially interested in looking at the language mothers use when reading both wordless picture storybooks and picture vocabulary books to see if parents provided extra information to children like relating the events of the story to the child’s own experiences or asking their child to make predictions.