Jen Shamberger MS, CCC-SLP
The preschool years are such an exciting time for language learning! Parents often ask how they can help with this language explosion. The simple answer is, reading books! Reading books with a child can provide many language and learning opportunities such as increasing vocabulary, sound awareness, the structure of stories, language structures, sustaining attention, and the simple love of books.
Reading frequently to a preschool age child is important. A great part of a bedtime routine can be reading. Imagine if parents read a different book to a child every night. That would be 730 books in just two years! Now, I am not saying to read a different book every night as children love the repetition of books, but 730 focused language-learning opportunities in two years sounds amazing to me, right?
Just as important as the frequency of reading books with a child is HOW books are read to a child. A great way to read books is to allow the child to become a participant in telling the story. Children can be encouraged to engage physically with the book by touching pictures, pointing things out in the book, and manipulating the pages. Here are some steps to help parents through an interactive reading session:
Parents can ask questions about the pictures. For example, on the cover of a new book, the parent may ask, “Who do you think this book is about?” or, “What is this animal?”
The parent can then respond to the child’s comments. The parent can say, “Yes, I think it is about a bear too”; or “that’s right, it’s a bear.”
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions allow the child to attend to details on the page. An example may be, “What is happening in this picture?” or “What do you see here?” It is amazing to see what the child will point out in the book. They have so many great ideas when talking about what they see.
Another great way to encourage talk about the book is to think aloud. An example would be, “I wonder how the bear caught the fish?” Some of the ideas will be very creative!
During this interactive book reading, parents read the text and engage the child using the above questions/strategies. These strategies can be employed on each and every page of the book. Children delight in having so much to say about the book and having a rich interaction with an adult in their life. Using these strategies will create a much different experience from the child listening to the adult only reading the text to them. Not only will it be an enjoyable time for the child and adult, but it will encourage some great language skills!