Henry Finds His Word

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Henry Finds His Word Book Poster Image
Baby says first word in sweet, amusing book.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lessons about language learning and development.

Positive Messages

Keep trying and you'll learn what you want to. And relax! Sometimes you learn things when you're developmentally ready. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Baby Henry wants to talk and communicate. He tries and tries. Finally he says his first word!

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Henry Finds His Word is a fun book about babies learning to talk. Though the target preschool reader may already be talking a blue streak, families can reminiscence about the reader's babyhood and share happy family memories. In the story, baby Henry has not yet said his first actual word, though he's readying himself by doing lots of babbling. Then one day, frustrated and needing help, he vocalizes his first recognizable word, one he soon finds comes in very handy for lots of situations: "Mama!"

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What's the story?

In HENRY FINDS HIS WORD, everyone in the family is wondering what Henry's first word will be. Henry's not sure what all the hoopla's about since he already says lots of words -- for instance, "beep boop" and "woo woo." And it's not his fault if no one can figure out what "bbhhsh" means. Still, Henry sets out on a search for his first word. He looks under his blanket, dumps out his toy box, and consults the cat. When Henry gets frustrated, he starts to cry. Where's his mama? He needs her! Right now! And then it happens. Henry says his first word. Spoiler alert: It's "Mama."

Is it any good?

Henry Finds His Word is fun and funny, cute as a pudgy-wudgy baby. But it's also stealthily accurate about language acquisition, which adds to its pleasures. When babies babble ("beep boop"), they're trying out sounds and also learning important conversational skills such as turn taking. Mothers and other emotionally important caregivers know this instinctively and talk to babies in goo-goo, ga-ga hyper-inflected speech known as "Motherese." And youngsters are particularly motivated to talk when they need to communicate. All this is implicit in the story, never dry and academic. Kids can have fun remembering how they themselves learned language and how their families encouraged them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about babies and how they learn language. How do babies learn to talk? Why do they like to babble? What are babies learning?

  • What was your first word? Why do you think you needed to say that?

  • Do you remember any of the funny things you said when you were a baby? Does your family remember? If you have younger siblings, or know other babies, how can you help them learn to talk?

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