Children’s books can be used at any stage of development to facilitate improvements in both expressive and receptive language skills. Today, we will be focusing on building preverbal skills and eventually eliciting first words by playing with books. Before children begin to use words, they use gestures to communicate. They then begin to pair these gestures with vocalizations to obtain desired items or actions, and eventually use animal noises, exclamatory phrases, and sound effects in play.
Books are filled with a variety of age-appropriate pictures that are easy to pair with gestures and sounds. Pick one or two pictures per page so that your child can start to do them spontaneously. If they are not copying your gestures right away, do not be afraid to take their hand and help them “beep beep” on the truck or “tickle tickle” a baby’s feet.
Below, I have attached a table with examples of common pictures found in children’s books and what I might do when I see them.
Once your child builds their imitation of gestures and sounds, they might begin to fill in routine phrases, which come up often in repetitive books. As your child becomes familiar with the book, you can pause and have them fill in a word. For example, in Brown Bear Brown Bear, each page ends with, “What do you see?” You can set the child up to fill in that phrase by saying, “what do you…” and looking at your child in anticipation.
Ana Thrall, MS, CCC-SLP