Reading for School Success
The first three to five years of life are critical in the growth and development of your child’s brain. Sharing language with him or her is never more important for later success in school and life. One way to do this is by regularly reading aloud to your child. It’s not only enjoyable and a bonding experience, it encourages speech and language skills, and can enhance memory, analytical thinking, vocabulary, and general knowledge. As humans, we’re hard-wired for connection with others, but those connections must be developed through regular interaction.
When caregivers read aloud, babies hear the sounds of language and the rhythm of speech, which helps them develop adult-like speech sounds, pitch and melody, first in babbling and then when using words in phrases. Book reading exposes older children to new vocabulary, reinforces social skills, and helps them learn about new experiences.
Pictures in books help children understand the connection between spoken words and their meanings. The story in the book is consistent, no matter how many times it is read, which helps children understand grammar and more complex sentences. Through books, children are also exposed to text and begin to recognize that written words are important, even if they are not able to read them yet.
HOW you read is important. Read with emotion, “do the voices” of the characters, change the speed, volume, and pitch of your voice, and pause to allow your child to respond.
Tips for reading aloud:
- Reading longer stories helps build your child’s attention, especially texts with rhyming or rhythmic verses, such as The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen or Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae.
- Books with repetitive phrases can increase the child’s participation. Examples include Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle, Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, and 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow.
- Point to pictures on the page. If your child cannot label the pictures, provide labels for her. Provide more language exposure by talking about what the characters are doing or how they feel.
- For older children, ask open-ended questions related to the story, such as “What is he/she doing?”, “What do you think will happen next?”, or “What might happen if he/she does that?” If this is challenging for your child, demonstrate how you would answer these questions.
- Limit e-books. Enhancements in e-books can distract from the story and children typically remember fewer details. Use “real” books whenever possible.
Reading to your child for 20 minutes each day is an effective and enjoyable way to set the stage for academic achievement.
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-Beth Wienhold, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist at LifeScape Rehabilitation Center.