Winter is still here, which means you are spending more time indoors. It’s a perfect time to curl up with a book with your child. Book reading is an effective and proven way to develop language, vocabulary, grammar, and narrative language skills. Reading together with your child is a great way to work on listening, too. Body positioning during reading, either in you lap or side by side, is a natural way to work on audition, without visual cues. While we all think of reading together with our young children, don’t forget that there is still a place for reading with older elementary and middle school children. Reading together allows for an opportunity to work on skills that need strengthening, but also allows for exposure to language and concepts that are above a child’s reading level. You can discuss unfamiliar vocabulary together while reading, something your child might just skim past on his/her own. When reading together, you can also analyze and discuss the book bringing deeper understanding.
Here are some ideas for making the most out of your reading experience:
- Consider the amount of print for your child’s age—vary the amount of print in the books you choose. There are even books out there that have no words. It’s fun to take those books and change them, each time you read them. For books that have great pictures and too many words for your child, simplify the language somewhat to ensure comprehension.
- Choose both fiction and non-fiction titles—While fiction books are always fun, don’t forget about non-fiction. It can be just as enjoyable as fiction, and it’s a great opportunity introduce new vocabulary.
Before Reading Your Book:
- Familiarize your child with the book—Talk about the title, the author, and the illustrator. Label the front, back and title page of the book.
- Make a prediction—Give your child an opportunity to predict what the book will be about based upon the title and/or cover image. I often find that children who participate in a lot of therapy unintentionally learn that there is a right answer or a right way to do something. These children tend to be poor risk takers. Making predictions about the book is a great way to work on this skill.
- Take a picture walk—Look through the pages of the book and talk about what you see. This provides the opportunity to teach unfamiliar vocabulary and prepare you child for what the story will be about. Then, when you are reading, since your child has already been exposed to the ideas in the book, the focus can be on listening.
While Reading Your Book:
- Expose your child to the “concepts of print”—Model for your child turning pages, as well as reading from left to right and top to bottom with your finger. Point out capitals at the start of sentences and punctuation at the end.
- Make note of different punctuation, as well as variations in text size and font–Change the inflection of your voice as you read to match the text and talk about why you are doing it.
- Take purposeful pauses during reading—Ask wh- questions, comment about what is happening, predict what will happen next, check for listener comprehension, and discuss unfamiliar vocabulary.
After Reading Your Book:
- Review the story—Summarize the events of the story, talk about your predictions and if they were accurate.
- Make self to text connections—Talk about how parts of the story relate to your and your child’s life.
- Make text to text connections—Talk about similarities amongst characters and stories that you have read together.
- Bring story to life—Act out events, draw pictures, and support the story through real life experiences (i.e. visit an aquarium if you read about sharks, make pancakes after reading “Pancakes, Pancakes” by Eric Carle).
You can do so many things with a book. Any reading experience helps develop your child’s language. When reading with your child remember these few tips.
- It’s okay to read the same book over and over again.
- Take turns with your child selecting books.
- Have your child read to you. Even preschoolers can “read” books that they have heard before or make up stories based on the pictures.
- Get books from a variety of resources (library, your own bookshelf, school).
- Make your own books! In addition to making up fictional stories, experience books are a great language tool for your child’s language development.