Research suggests that storybook reading facilitates language development and plays an important role in preparing children for success in school. In addition to enhancing early language development and literacy skills, shared book reading, between you and your child, can provide a positive social interaction. Reading with your child should start from birth. At this time, you can read anything to your son or daughter, even The New York Times. What matters is how you read it. Read with feeling, show emotion and pause to allow your baby to vocalize back to you. Initially, choose books with a story and meaning. Reading longer stories during the first months will help to build your child’s attention. Books like The Three Bears by Byron Barton, Summer by Alice Low and Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider will be fun for you and your baby.
If your toddler has trouble paying attention to a book, try reading when he or she is in the highchair eating, in the car seat while traveling, or just waking up from a nap in the stroller.
By choosing the right books, you can help target speech and language skills you want to develop. Selecting books with repetitive phrases will allow your child to participate during story time. Great examples include: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle, and The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski. Give your child the opportunity to complete the repetitive line, or if he or she is ready, the whole line. Hopefully, these words will carry over into daily vocabulary.
Rhyming books help children with word prediction, which is crucial for reading development. Once familiar with a rhyming book, have your child try to fill-in the rhyming word. Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book begins: Left foot, Left foot, Right foot, Right – Feet in the morning, Feet at _____ (child should say “night”).
If your child’s speech therapist has determined that understanding and using prepositions is an important goal for your child, use books to reinforce what occurs in therapy. Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, Up Above and Down Below by Sue Redding and Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse by Rick Walton are full of prepositions.
A child with more developed language but has difficulty providing details and descriptions may benefit from “reading” wordless picture books to you. Pictures in the story should be described so that the story makes sense. Picture books with text can also be used, as long as the pictures are detailed themselves. (You may cover the text with your hand if your child can read.) Excellent examples include Knuffle Bunny books by Mo Willems, No, David! by David Shannon, and Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Other favorite wordless picture books include A Boy, a Dog and a Frog Series by Mercer Mayer, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola and The Jack Series by Pat Schories. If you feel your child leaves out important information, ask an open-ended question (e.g., “Ooo – What’s happening over here?”). Provide a description if you feel this is too challenging. Perhaps this will increase your child’s awareness to be more specific and when you sit down to read the book again, the new information will be included.
Parent-Child Joint Reading: An Observational Protocol for Young Children (Kaderavek & Sulzby, 1998)
Sarah Peters, MA, CF-SLP