Children begin developing the foundational skills they’ll need to read and write very early in life. That’s why parents should begin reading to children when they’re toddlers, helping build good habits that will last a lifetime.
This post was written by Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP
As a speech-language pathologist, I witness first hand just how important reading is to a child’s social, academic, and emotional development. It helps expand their imagination, develops their listening and comprehension skills, and improves their vocabulary.
This is especially true for children who have a speech or language disorder. Across the country, millions of children have communication problems that affect their growth and development. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), children with communication difficulties are more likely to have problems with reading and writing, which can affect their social skills, classroom performance, and ability to express themselves.
Understanding the importance of reading is the easy part. But keeping your child excited and engaged when reading – not always so simple! While there are definitely some natural book worms amongst us, many children can be resistant. Some struggle to pay attention, others prefer televisions and cartoons, and some just would rather pull out the blocks.
I’ve included some helpful tips and ideas to get your kids excited to read again.
- YOU are in Charge of books: First things first – books are amazing resources. They open gateways to literacy and imagination. But, don’t let books boss you around! When reading with your children, you don’t have to read every word on the page. If your child is still a toddler, complicated language in a book might go over their head. Instead, spend time looking at the pictures, commenting on what you see, and checking to see whether they can point out what you’re referencing.
- Label and Comment While Keeping it Fun: Incorporating pointing, movements, and fun voices can help kids stay engaged in books. Make facial expressions or imitate a character’s voice. You can also switch up the tone of your voice when a character is happy, sad, or shouts for excitement. We want them to learn to enjoy reading – so we should try to make it fun and not a chore.
- Checking for Comprehension: Take opportunities to use pictures in books to your advantage. See if your child can point to pictures that you name, for example, “where’s the cow?” If they need help, do some modeling: “Cow!” After time, your child may begin to imitate you – that’s a good thing! And of course, you can always follow up with some language expansions: “Cow says moooo!”
- Choose Books with Rhyming: Some books have fantastic rhymes. These are perfect for developing pre-literacy skills. Rhymes help keep children engaged and even encourage them to get involved by clapping or singing along. As your child gets older, you can start to stick to a book’s written text more and more.
- Make Reading a Daily Routine: One study found that children will hear nearly 300,000 more words by the time they reach Kindergarten if they read just one book a day! That’s a lot. And while it’s not always possible with our hectic schedules, try to squeeze in one at least before bedtime.
- Keeping books inexpensive: There are tons of great resources out there to get your hands on some books without spending a fortune, too – public libraries, book swaps, Facebook marketplace, neighborhood libraries, and even free online books. Don’t forget that kids crave repetition, so you might go through some real favorite book phases with them!
It’s important to remember that reading requires many prerequisite skills that have to do with a child’s speech and language abilities. If your child is struggling, consider talking with a speech-language pathologist. They are the most qualified professional to help evaluate, diagnose, and treat speech and language disorders. Many families prefer to receive speech therapy online, as it’s generally more affordable, convenient, and available around your schedule – mornings, nights, or weekends.
About Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP:
Leanne calls Austin, Texas home but studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and gained her Master’s in Speech-language pathology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has worked in pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, early intervention, and home health. Leanne is currently the President and Founder of Expressable, an online speech therapy company that envisions a modern and affordable way for anyone who needs speech therapy to access these vital services. You can check out her blog here.
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