Because my goal is to provide you with tools to foster good speech and language development, I decided to expand on a point I only mentioned in my last post: reading to your child is a good way to increase how much language he or she hears throughout the day.
So, in the spirit of providing helpful tips, here’s an important one. Read to your child. Everyday. It’s never too early (or too late) to start. The more we read to (and talk to) our children, the more words they hear. And the more words they hear, the larger their vocabularies become. This makes reading comprehension, and really all learning, easier as children enter school. Reading to children is also a positive interaction and can lead to a love of reading later on. Kids who read more are better readers.
As a professional, I often hear from parents of toddlers that their children do not have the attention span to sit through an entire book. They’d rather be off doing something else. Maybe your child turns the pages so quickly that you barely have enough time to read a couple of words, never mind a whole page. As a parent of one such toddler, I know how frustrating it can be. But I have a few strategies to make it a little easier.
- Try to hold the book at arm’s length so your child can’t turn the page until you’re ready.
- Try sitting your child up on a comfortable chair or couch while you kneel down on the floor in front of them with a book. This keeps the book out of your child’s reach and lets him or her make eye contact with you during story-time.
- You don’t have to read the words on the page. You can make up your own story to go along with the pictures. You can summarize what’s going on in the story to make it shorter for your child.
Eventually, most children will develop an attention span that is long enough to sit through a book and you won’t need these strategies. In the meantime, though, they are there for you to use.
Kids often want to read the same book over and over. Does it make us parents want to jump off a cliff to have to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for the 87th time this week? Of course. But kids learn through repetition. Grin and bear it and throw in a different book every so often. (Plus, you’ll be wishing your child wants to read the brown bear book when he brings home Captain Underpants from the school library.)
So you or your child has picked out a book, and you’re sitting down to read it. Assuming your child no longer has the attention span of a goldfish, you can ask your child questions about the book. With toddlers and preschoolers, adults have a tendency to ask “What’s this?” a lot. While it’s certainly okay to do that a couple of times during a book, avoid doing it on every page. (It can make children think that the only purpose for looking at books is to label pictures.) You, the adult, can point out and name pictures. When reading a book your child has heard many times before, you can pause and let him try to fill in the blank. For school age children – ask questions that require a little thought. What do you think will happen next? How do you think the character feels? If you read a word you think your child might not understand, ask if he or she knows what it means, and if not, explain it.
One last thing. Turn off the TV and put down your smart phone when you’re reading with your children. You don’t want have to compete for their attention (or they for yours).