We all know that reading to our kids is important. How hard can it be, right?
Shared story book reading is a skill that many parents require support with to effectively promote the development of their child’s speech and language. Don’t worry, if you’re reading to your child AT ALL, then this is a great start, however, book sharing can have a dramatic impact on our kids development, so why not try to super-charge the experience?
Firstly, lets get some terminology out of the way. When I talk about speech, I mean a child’s words and sounds that they express. When I talk about language, I mean their vocabulary, sentence structure and their ability to understand the meaning of words and sentences.
Follow these 5 TIPS to enhance the quality of story time with your little one!
1. HAVE A CONVERSATION
Reading to your child should never be one-sided.
Picture this… you are sitting with your child on your lap, you are both facing the book, you are reading the words and maybe letting them turn the pages. You read every word meticulously because that’s what you are supposed to do, right? Actually, that’s kind of boring.
Let’s spice things up a bit!
We therapists call it sharing a book for a reason. This is the perfect opportunity to have a conversation! After all, having a conversation with your child is the most important way to build their speech and language skills.
Pause often and make eye contact ~ this creates opportunities for your child to point, make a comment or ask a question. A child who is 6-8 months old will respond to pauses. This is them learning to take turns in a conversation! Older children might vocalise or ask a question and this is an opportunity for them to learn.
Mimic sounds and actions ~ your baby will love it when you copy them. Repetition is great for speech development.
Ask “why”, ask “where”, ask “what will happen next?”
Comment ~ comment on pictures. Comment on the characters. Comment, comment, comment.
2. GET FACE TO FACE
It doesn’t matter how, just make sure that they can see your face!
I like to sit the child on one of my legs, facing in. This way you can lean to one side and easily have eye contact with them. Sharing a book is so much more effective when you are face to face.
Your child needs to see your facial expressions! They can read social cues (such as pauses) from your expectant looks, and bask in the enjoyment of that intimate connection with you.
3. USE APPROPRIATE LANGUAGE
You don’t have to read the exact words in the book! I am giving you full creative control so that you enhance the learning opportunities for your child.
Often there are too many words, especially if your child isn’t speaking in sentences yet. Try to choose books that are an appropriate language level for your child. If not, change them! Paraphrase, condense, embellish!
1 year old ~ 1-3 word utterances (Where is the Green Sheep?)
2 year old ~ phrases and simple sentences (Each Peach Pear Plum)
3 year old ~ Sentences and short paragraphs (Hattie and The Fox)
4 year old ~ Paragraphs
Children develop their language at variable rates. The above suggestions are ball park developmental norms.
4. BE ANIMATED!
Exclaim! Oh no! Look! Over there! What’s that?
WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN!!??
Use your voice and facial expressions to make it interesting.
Be silly, channel your inner playschool.
5. BE CONSISTENT
Aim to read your child 3 books a day. Create a routine. Before a nap, after a nap, after dinner, done! Three books before bed, done!
You can read the same book three times. You can read three short books.
Just spend the time. Read the books.