Cultivate a Love for Language and Literacy with Emily Lim

Teacher reading to child

Ms Emily Lim, a popular local children’s author, shares with Beanstalk some practical tips and strategies for cultivating a love of language and literacy in young children!

Emily Lim Book Talk

Reading to children from an early age can make a lasting impact on their language and literacy skills. Emily shares with Beanstalk practical tips and strategies to help young children cultivate a love for language and literacy!

  1. Go with the children's interest when choosing books to read.

    Child reading a book

    Find out what your child likes – be it cars, dinosaurs, butterflies or bunnies – and look for picture books with similar characters they can relate to. The children will then want to look at the books and enjoy the stories better.

    When your children are interested or excited in a particular topic, be it animals, planes or superheroes, that would be one step closer to loving books.

  2. Read books that are fun and simply for pleasure.

    Teacher reading to child

    I have read the Dr Seuss’ books many times to my pre-schoolers. They love it because they are fun, silly and have some ridiculous sounding words which they enjoy hearing. Also, have many reading moments where you read the book together purely for pleasure, rather than to teach and test. Given the short attention span of pre-schoolers, language is best caught, rather than taught.

    When reading to children, it should be for the pleasure of wanting to read to them, rather than wanting to teach them. Enjoying a book is an activity that is best caught rather than taught.

  3. Encourage storytelling, imaginative wordplay, and add onomatopoeia to your book reading.

    Teacher engaging storytelling

    If you just sit still and read to them, children may not take away much from the activity. Talk through the pictures in the book and pause through a reading to ask questions to create more excitement. There is also no need to rush through the entire book. If children show interest in a particular page, let them talk about it for as long as they want, before bringing them back to the story.

    Pre-schoolers are in the pretend play stage. So make up stories with characters they like. Make up words by all means – even Dr Seuss does that!

    And do incorporate onomatopoeia into your book reading. Let your storybook cows “moo”, chickens “cluck” and trucks go “beep beep”!

  4. Encourage song and dance as a way to pick up and enjoy language

    Storytelling session with a class of children

    I found Chinese DVDs with older kids performing songs and dance as a great way to get my pre-schooler to speak Mandarin...well, sing it.

  5. Talk & Engage

    Teacher engaging child 

    This is actually more tiring than just reading a book to a child. I know because I am a full-time caregiver. But when you talk and engage young children, they pick up language skills best.

    The top 3 tips from Emily Lim are also featured in Happily Ever After under the July – September 2015 issue of Beanstalk Magazine.


Emily and her family 

Local children's author Emily Lim has written more than 30 books and won international awards for at least four of them, including Prince Bear and Pauper Bear and The Tale of Rusty Horse. Reading with young children, says Ms Lim, helps them to pick up words that they need to use to communicate, which further contributes to their language and literacy development. Ms Lim has been speaking to her son Caleb in proper sentences - since he was born - and read him her books. She believes her efforts have played a part in Caleb being an early talker. "At nine months, he was speaking a lot of simple words, and the moment he passed one, he was using two words combined," she said. Caleb, now four years old, can also tell his own simple stories.


Emily has also worked with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to produce a series of books illustrating the key general principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).