By Jessica Drake-Simmons
Reading is my absolute favorite activity for developing language skills! Books provide an organized, meaningful context for children to cultivate a deeper understanding of language and acquire new vocabulary. A book with pictures provides children an opportunity to visualize what they are hearing and supports their understanding of the language. Reading also develops strong imaginative abilities and it can improve attention. The more often you read to your child from an early age, the greater the positive effect on their future reading abilities and thinking skills.
So, how can we compete with the bright screens and rapid changing graphics of iPads, computers, TV shows and video games? Here are some ideas for making reading something that your child wants to do, not something he has to do.
1. Give children an active role in reading. We all learn better from ‘doing’ rather than just listening or watching and children are no exception! Children demonstrate an increased level of engagement and comprehension when they are able to participate in the reading of a story. Participating in a story could be as simple as:
- Pointing to pictures
- Turning the pages
- Choosing the book
- Imitating fun actions like stomping or waving related to words in a story
- Making silly sound effects
2. Ask your child questions during and after the story like, “What did Pete step in?”, “Who built their house out of straw?”, “”Can you remember something that the caterpillar ate?”, “How do you think the rainbow fish felt?”, “What would you do if?”, ”Why do you think?”, “Have you ever felt?”. Have them make predictions about what might happen next in a story like: “What do you think this story will be about?”, ”Wow! David made a mess! What do you think his mom will do?”, ”The pig just ran away. Where do you think he could be going?”, ”They were invited to a party. What do you think will happen at the party?”.” Having children make predictions and respond to questions will increase their engagement, comprehension and thinking skills. It is also an effective way of gauging their understanding of the story. Tell them your response to these open ended questions. Modeling your thinking skills is a powerful teaching strategy.
3. Make the story come to life! Using story props or dressing up is so much fun and makes the child feel the experience of the story. If you are reading a book about pirates, put on your pirate hat and if you are reading a book about princesses, get out the wand. Use story props to have the child manipulate during the story. If you are reading a story about farm animals, bring out stuffed animals, plastic animals, puppets or puzzle piece animals. Act out the words of the story with the props or let your child control the props. For your child’s favorite stories that they request to read over and over again, there are plenty of websites that offer printable story characters and ideas for extension activities. For more ideas and resources, check out our Pinterest site: http://www.pinterest.com/speechdeptes/literacy/.
4. PLAY! Use the story that you just read as an imaginative play schema. This gives children an opportunity to retell the story, use newly learned vocabulary and increase their comprehension of themes and concepts from the story. It also gives them the chance to use their imaginations and expand the story in their own creative ways. For older children, have them act out the story. This will help gain a deeper level of understanding and it will allow them to take on the perspective of different characters in the story.
Most importantly, you need to have fun and enjoy this experience with your child. If you are having fun, chances are your child will be too! What are you waiting for?! Let’s get this reading party started!
Jessica Drake-Simmons, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a licensed speech-language pathologist with a specialty in pediatrics. Jessica received her Master’s degree in 2009 from Eastern Illinois University in Communication Sciences and Disorders and her Bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University. She has a particular interest in working on early communication, apraxia, articulation, receptive and expressive language. Jessica has gained valuable experience treating children in both the school and clinic setting. She loves finding ways to make targeted skills functional and meaningful in a child’s life. Jessica is passionate about supporting kids in the acquisition of communication skills and she loves making therapy fun. Jessica is grateful for the lessons that special kids with a different perspective of the world are able to teach her each day.