By Victoria Vanderstoep (Student Communicative Disorders Assistant, Durham College)
As I was browsing through a local book store the other morning, the sheer number of children’s books amazed me. Some of them are stories I remember from my childhood, like the Dr. Seuss books, and the rest are newer books. The bookshelves are lined with brightly coloured, illustrated book covers, some of them with textured covers; I wanted to read them all!
Children’s books are an excellent and fun resource to use for promoting speech and language in young children! Story time allows parents and their children to sit quietly together while sharing a story or two. Books come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some might rhyme, some might have flaps that children get to open, some could have textured pieces, like a dog’s fur, and some may even be noisy! But books aren’t only fun to read, books also promote joint attention, literal and inferential language comprehension, narrative comprehension and expressive and receptive vocabulary in children.
Exposure is a key ingredient to learning language. Children acquire the words they are hearing in their environment. Books expose children to a plethora of language, both familiar and unfamiliar words. Books encourage repetition, not only through reading the books multiple times, but also throughout the pages of a book. Words are repeated throughout the story, and used in different sentences, allowing the children to begin understanding the meaning of the word.
Reading books allows parents to join focus and follow their child’s lead, many times, children pick the books they are interested in reading, this allows for the parents to respond to the child’s interests and expand on their ideas.
Children learn language when their interest is sparked. The brightly coloured illustrations captivate their attention, drawing them into the book. These images encourage conversation between parents and children. Parents can ask questions about the pictures, or point out different parts of a picture that the child might not have realized. Parents can also expand on the written story by using the illustrations on each page. It’s important to remember that books don’t have to be read exactly as it is written. Parents have the ability to change the story. Stories can be changed to focus on a specific interest of the child, or to target a specific language area. For example, if a child loves dogs and the book has the dog as a character in the book, why not change the story so the dog is the main character, and the story is being told by the dog.
If you think your child may be struggling with literacy, speak with their teacher or Speech-Language Pathologist for more information.