Reading is a great way to work on a variety of language skills including vocabulary, reading comprehension, narrative development and sequencing, attention and descriptions are among a few of the skills that can be worked on using books. Engaging in book activities with children from an early age also develops an invaluable lifelong love of reading. While many adults moan at the thought of having to read a book, literacy skills are an important foundational skill that kids will need for their whole academic career. Reading will follow students into social studies, language arts and even math, with problems in comprehension leading to struggles in all areas. Knowing how crucial reading is for kids is the first step in preparing them for literary success. Knowing how to engage your child using books is the next step to building solid, confident readers.
Many parents wonder when the right time to begin reading to their children is, and the answer is, it’s never too soon to start, even in utero. Reading to babies introduces them to communication and builds listening skills. But even if your child’s attention won’t allow them to sit through a whole story, use a ‘picture walk’, where you and your child look at the pictures and discuss what is happening. This helps build a reading routine, increases your child’s ability to attend and can give your child the opportunity to identify and describe pictures, which improves vocabulary.
Having your child identify objects or actions in the story pictures is great way to build vocabulary and keep children focused. You can even have them identify pictures based on a verbal description, “find the man who is sitting on the rock with a yellow shirt.” Note the amount of time your child is able to tolerate picture walks, and try to add small increments of time as they become more used to the routine.
Once your child is able to maintain attention for a whole story, begin your story reading sessions by first talking about what your child thinks will happen in the story. As you read, ask your child open-ended questions to ensure they understand the story. “Where did the bunny go to play?” is a question that will elicit more conversation than the question, “Did the bunny go to the park?” Questions about what will happen next help children understand the sequence of events, and help develop more abstract thinking. Choosing stories with repetitious parts and allowing children to fill-in-blanks during those parts helps children anticipate events and helps build confidence that they are ‘reading’.
After reading the story, have your child retell the story to work on auditory recall, sequencing and narrative development. Finally, having the child participate in an hands-on activity related to the story helps solidify all the elements. They can draw a picture, create an alternate ending, act the story out, or make a song about the book, all of which require the child to physically become involved with the story.
Books offer a great way to work on a multitude of language skills. The combination of the visuals cues from the pictures and the auditory cues from the story is powerful in helping children learn and develop language. There are endless ways to engage children with books and as always, it is important to make sure your child is interested in the reading material and having a fun to make sure they receive optimal benefit.
Check out our next blog article, Great Summer Reads, to find books suitable for your child. If you have any questions or concerns about using books to facilitate your child’s language or any questions about your child’s speech and/or language development, please contact us at 404-606-3755.