It surprises a lot of people to find out that as a child, I did not like books. My sister was the reader, so in a desperate bid to be different I preferred dirt and running to words and reading.
How times have changed.
Anyone who enters my clinic room now will know that I am a big lover of books. I use them every day to support my clients and help them achieve their goals. Working on language? Let’s use a book. Need something different to engage a child? Use a new book. Got some free time at the end of the session? Let’s read a book.
So why are books so important? And how can you use them to help your child develop their skills?
Books are an essential part of a child’s development from the time when they are an infant right up to adulthood. Research shows that reading and sharing stories promotes brain development and imagination, teaches children about language and emotions, and strengthens the relationship between parents and children.
Reading and sharing stories can help your child to:
o learn sounds, words and language, and develop early literacy skills
o learn to value books and stories
o spark your child’s imagination and stimulate curiosity
o develop their cognition social skills and communication skills develop
o understand change and new or frightening events, and the strong emotions that can go along with them.
Now is probably a good time to pause and clarify… when we talk about ‘reading books’ with children we do not always mean ‘READING books’. You do not need to recite every word of a story. Just by looking at books with your child, you can be a great storyteller and a good model for using language and books. Look at the pictures and talk about what is happening, ask your child questions and enjoy predicting what you think might happen. Young children will learn by watching you hold a book the right way and seeing how you move through the book by gently turning the pages.
Tips for sharing books with babies and young children:
Include books as a part of your daily routine. A comfortable chair or reading corner may help to make your time reading more special. Aim to read at least one book a day.
Turn off the TV or radio, and find a quiet place to read so your child can hear your voice.
Hold your child close or on your knee while you read, so they can see your face and the book.
Try out funny noises and sounds – play and have fun!
Involve your child by encouraging talk about the pictures.
Repeat familiar words and phrases.
Let your child choose the books when they are old enough to start asking (be prepared to read their favourite books over and over again!)
Tips for sharing books with pre-schoolers:
Talk about the pictures with your child. This helps them look for meaning and to think about what they see happening on the page
Ask questions when you are reading together. For example:
What do you see on this page?
How do you think the characters feel?
What do you think is going to happen next?
When you have finished, talk about how your child feels about the book:
What did they like?
What didn’t they like?
What can they remember about what happened?
Who was their favourite character? Why?
Link the story to the child’s own experiences. Can they remember when they did something similar to the characters in the book?
Try asking your child to tell the story. They can ‘read’ the pictures to you and talk about what’s happening on the page.
Try making funny faces or using character voices – these always make children giggle!
Point to each word as you read them.
Try to avoid ‘quizzing’ your child-make sure to make comments about the story as well as asking some questions.
Choosing books to read doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Check out your local library and op shop. For book suggestions, one of my favourite websites is booksharetime.com. This website was created by a speech pathologist, and it includes recommendations for different age groups and language concepts. You can also ask your speech pathologist for suggestions- I have many!