Written by Jennifer Dierenfeld, speech-language pathologist at Evergreen Hearing and Speech
I love books. No seriously, I really love books and I especially love children’s books and literature. There’s something about getting lost in a good children’s book that brings me so much joy. As a speech-language pathologist, I love using books to promote speech and language development for children of all ages in my therapy sessions. As we learned in the Thirty Million Words program, when children hear fewer words while growing up, it negatively impacts their vocabularies, reading skills and overall school preparedness. Books provide us as parents and caregivers with a powerful tool to help our kids form not only a life-long love of literacy, but also to help expand their vocabulary, support their reading skills and their school success. The power of books comes not from choosing the right book, but rather from how you read to your kids. Here are some of my favorite tips for making reading interactive and fun:
- Have a conversation with your kids about what they already know about the book or topic based on what they see in the pictures or previous experiences they may have had. Keep the conversation going throughout reading to build on their understanding.
- Let your kids fill in words that they know to help “read” the story, even if they are not reading yet. Books that use repetition are great for letting kids fill in the blanks and keep the story going.
- Promote vocabulary by using big words in the context of the story. Books do a great job of introducing words we do not use in our day-to-day conversations in a way that is accessible for kids to learn the meaning and remember new words. You can support their understanding of new vocabulary words by defining words you think your kids may not know using the context of the sentence or story and linking those terms back to their own personal experiences.
- Set aside time to read daily. Numerous studies show that reading to kids of all ages for as little as 15 minutes a day makes a huge impact on their development. As a parent, I know that some days that is easier said than done but hearing a book read in any format is just as powerful. So, if you can’t sit down with a book, turn on an audiobook and use all the tips above just as you would if you had the book in front of you. Your kids are going to get the exact same benefits and that same language-rich environment to promote vocabulary and literacy skills as they would if you had a book in hand. I love listening to audiobooks with my kids when we are in the car. Everyone is there together, and I can hit pause to have those comprehension discussions at any time.
We love the Thirty Million Words Initiative that promotes speech development from an early age. With these four simple steps any parent can do it!
Check out this video to see these tips in action with a reading of “Moo Who?” as part of our celebration of Better Hearing and Speech Month.