I always encourage parents to read or participate in shared book time with their children. Unlike spoken speech, the pictures and words on a page do not disappear. It is a great tool for building vocabulary, supporting literacy, and providing you and your child with an opportunity to share an enjoyable interactive activity.
By picking the right books and reading them the right way, you can enhance story time with your child.
Choosing the right book
-If your child is rough with books choose durable materials such as board and vinyl books.
-For vocabulary building, choose books that are good for pointing to and naming things. These books can be about animals, everyday objects, and daily routines, making sure that there are only one or two big, brightly colored photographs or pictures per page, sometimes too many pictures can be distracting.
-Interactive books such as flaps that lift, buttons to push, and textures to feel provide things for your child to do even if he/she is not pointing to or labeling pictures yet. This can help children learn early on that books are fun!
-Predictable books such as Eric Carle's "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?" have repetitive and predictable words and phrases. Children who love songs and music are especially interested in these books due to their rhyme and rhythm. After a few times reading the book, your child will be able to fill in the blanks or "read" it herself.
- Choose simple story books with a simple beginning, middle, and end. It is helpful to choose situations that your child is familiar with or may encounter during his or her daily life (a visit to the zoo, a birthday party, a visit to the dentist, etc). Later on, introduce stories about unfamiliar things such as make-believe creatures or life on the farm that will spark your child's imagination and creativity.
Reading the right way
Your positioning is important while reading with your child. Sitting face-to-face is most beneficial in providing your little one with ample opportunity to watch as you articulate different speech sounds in words and view your facial expressions while reading.
Remember to let your child lead, meaning if your child skips a page, flips the pages from back to front, or seems to lose attention, modify your behavior to boost your child's engagement. Don't worry about reading each and every word on a page, instead change the text if necessary. You may simplify a two sentence line in a story to a one. Make sure to use simple and grammatical phrases so your child hears appropriate verbal models and pause between words and phrases so your child can take a turn.
Another way you can modify the text is by inserting repetitive phrases, even they do not appear in a book. For example, if you are reading a transportation book, at each picture you may use your own phrase "I see a car... Beep Beep!, I see a train.. Choo Choo!" The carrier phrase "I see a..." will make it easy for your child to participate and fill in the blank.
For your children who are older and/or active participants in book reading you may have them predict what may happen next in the story before you turn the page and ask simple questions about the story for example, from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle (What did the caterpillar eat?)
Whether your child's speech and language skills are typically developing or he/she struggles to communicate, the strategies I've described give children a chance to practice improving their communication skills and make "book" time so much more fun and doubly impactful. I would love to hear how it goes the next time you read with your child. :)