How Can I Use Books with My Preschool Child to Maximize Language Development?
Corie Viscomi, MA, CCC-SLP, recently wrote an article titled ,
" Interactive Book Activities to Build Preliteracy Skills in Preschoolers" in the American Speech-Language Hearing Association publication, ASHA LEADER LIVE (Sept. 28, 2020). The following is an excerpt that provides suggestions for parents to use books as a communication tool. She suggested that interactive book reading works best to engage preschoolers, enhance their pre-literacy skills, and allows you to use a book as a communication tool, rather than as an adult-driven activity. The following are her 10 tips for interactive reading:
Repeat, repeat, repeat. As we all know, kids love reading the same stories over and over (even if you don’t). Luckily, this is good for them. Multiple exposures support vocabulary building and concept words become engrained more quickly.
Take turns. This works best in books with rhyming or repetitive phrases. Simply pause and let the child fill in the next word. For example, in “Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?” pause and let the child finish, “I see a red bird looking at ____.” If reading a familiar book, you can start this right away (repeat, repeat, repeat). If not, you may want to wait until the phrase has been said a few times.
Read it their way. To get the most out of story time, let children enjoy some control. Some like to hold the book and turn the pages. Others might want to start on a favorite page, skip pages, or not finish the book. All of this is fine, as long as they engage with you and the book. Do students want to name every letter during “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”? Fine.
Talk about pictures. Illustrations in children’s books—whether beautiful, funny, or minimalist—are worth talking about. Talking about the pictures gives students a chance to hear a variety of descriptive language. Try books with no words or few words, such as the Carl series by Alexandra Day. For added impact, choose books with characters that look different than your students.
Pay attention to words, too. It’s equally important to help children focus on the text to help them develop print awareness. As this awareness increases, children begin to understand the rules of print.
Expand on utterances. Building on a child’s utterances promotes language development during book reading or any time. If they point at a picture and say “dog,” reply with “a black/big/happy dog.”
Carry over into play. Infuse vocabulary, concepts, and themes into play-based activities. This allows children to generalize things they learned in a story. Did you read “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”? Now, make some animal noises while you play with farm animals.
Ask questions or make comments. Posing questions while reading can enhance children’s language skills—I find too many can reduce their reading enjoyment. Younger children can answer some simple who, what, where questions, while older children can answer predicting and inferencing questions. Making comments—how a character might feel, for example—can model vocabulary, concepts, grammatical structures, and more.
Get dramatic. Story time is a prime opportunity to get silly with students. Try funny voices, insert emotion, or use gestures to make certain words pop. For example, use your hands to demonstrate prepositions in “Rosie’s Walk”: Rosie walked “AROUND the pond” and “OVER the haystack.”
Slow down. While reading, take your time. This gives kids time to take a conversational turn and provides more time to process the story, which can lead to better comprehension.
Corie Viscomi, MA, CCC-SLP, owns and directs The Speech Studio, a private practice in Westchester County, New York. She specializes in early intervention, executive function, literacy, and receptive and expressive language delays. email@example.com
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