I love books and I love using books in my therapy sessions. Book reading can be such a nice activity for you and your child. It lends itself to a feeling of closeness and extends your child’s thinking. Books themselves are great in that they are portable and easy to take with you, they can be looked at again and again, offer exposure to new vocabulary, and provide a foundation for learning to read and write later on.
But what if your child doesn’t like books or can’t sit still long enough to be read to?
That’s okay as there are a few simple little tricks that you can do to encourage engagement with books. The first step is to select the right book. Choose books that will capture your child’s interest, such as books with pictures of favorite items or characters, books that correspond with children’s songs (if your child likes to sing), interactive books (textures to touch, buttons to push, or books with flaps you can open), or make homemade books with pictures of familiar people, places and things.
Once you have the right book, you are ready to start an interaction by sitting face-to-face with your child at their level. This allows you to connect, notice what your child is interested in the book and more easily maintain the engagement.
For children that are younger or seemingly not interested, you can simply start by having your child open and close the book, turn the pages, touch different textures or open flaps. Once your child can sit and engage with the book with you for longer periods of time, you can start labeling the pictures or describe them using simple language. Allow your child to lead by turning to the pages that interest them versus feeling compelled to turn each page from start to finish.
How to encourage language when book reading:
At this stage, children really enjoy hearing the book again and again. Because of the familiarity and the predictability that this creates, you can adjust how you read the book with your child to help him do more such as point to pictures that you label, fill-in-the-blank, label pictures or answer questions related to the story.
Because you want to read the book at your child’s language level, you can adjust how you read by changing the words in the book. For example, if the page says, “Toby, the big brown dog chased the squirrel up the tree,” you can simply point to the picture and say, “dog.” As your child becomes more familiar with the book, you can later ask him, “what is it,” in hopes that your child will label “dog.”
Similarly, in books that have a lot of repetition, such as “Brown Bear”, once your child is familiar, you can pause right before the last word of the phrase to allow your child the opportunity to fill-in-the-blank. Once they can fill in one word, you can pause sooner in the sentence to encourage them to fill-in the last two words.
Repetition is Key!
Children love hearing the same stories again and again. Every time you read a book to your child, you have the opportunity to repeat the same words and sentences. While it is not enough for your child to hear the words many times, they also need a chance to talk about what they’re seeing in the books as well as opportunities to imitate the words. The more opportunities children have to talk about the ideas in the book, and the more they hear you repeat the words in the book, the more their vocabulary and language will grow.
For a list of 50 books with repetition, click here.