As speech language pathologists, we are always encouraging parents to read more with their children. Some children are naturally more interested in books than others, but by making a book more than just a book, you can use them to help develop your child’s language, and encourage them to explore the world. By bringing more books into your home and exposing your child to the printed word, you are also helping them develop early literacy skills.
Make A Book Fun!
A book can be so much more than pictures and words on a page. In fact, you don’t even have to read the exact words to make it a meaningful experience. Pediatric speech therapists use books to introduce new concepts or ideas, and then extend the book into other activities. When you extend the book beyond its’ pages, your child learns through the words they hear, the pictures they see, and the objects they touch. All of this reinforces the story and makes the content of the book more meaningful for your toddler.
As you may have noticed, many children’s books have repetitive, predictable language (think Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle). Children benefit from the repetition of the same language and, for children, the anticipation of the repeated phrase is fun every time! Here is a strategy to make books more than just a 5-minute activity.
1. Pick a book that you are interested in, and read it to your children when they are awake and alert.
2. Do more with it! Depending on your child’s age and attention span, find a way to make the book more engaging. If you have a 1 year old, they can turn the pages on your cue, or you can have them point out objects as you say them. For a 2 year old, have your child hunt around the house for objects mentioned in the book. For a 3 year old, consider a home craft project to replicate a character. Use simple objects from around your house; for example you can make faces out of paper plates, create cereal sculptures, or cut out pictures from magazines!
3. Talk about the book later in the day, or better yet, read it again. This helps remind children what they learned. And remember, repetition is key!
Sarah Pifkin Ruger, MS, CF-SLP