Aug 30, 2018
Everyday Opportunities to Build Language Skills
Can you even tally up the number of times you read “Goodnight, Moon” or another favorite book to your child? Young children love repetition in reading, but it’s much harder for caregivers to get excited about bedtime stories when a single, dog-eared copy of one title is your child’s only choice. Over and over again. Every. Time. You. Read.
But there’s a silver lining: repetition in reading aloud has educational benefits for your child! Reading aloud is one of the most important things parents can do with their children: whether it’s the same book or a new one. When a child listens to an adult read, she is hearing fluent, purposeful reading. She gets to hear expressive reading filled with different inflection and intonation (as long as you play along a bit!). By listening to stories and informational text, children develop their listening comprehension.
And while it’s tempting to skip over words if you’re not sure your child will know them, that’s an important part of the experience. Reading aloud helps introduce your child to new vocabulary words, which expands her language. The language in books is far more sophisticated than what children hear in everyday conversations, and the number of words in a child’s vocabulary is very important to their later reading success.
Reading aloud to children helps them see the purposes for reading and enjoyment that comes from it. So pick up the worn copy of “Goodnight, Moon” for the six hundredth time. Use inflection, feign excitement and pretend to be surprised to find the mouse on each of the illustrated pages. It’s making a difference with your little learner.
Three Strategies That Will Boost Your Child's Language Skills
There are three things any caregiver can do to help boost the language skills of a child:
1. Read aloud.
Visiting the library is a fun field trip for kids, and used books are an affordable way to get reading materials into the hands of children. Pick out books together and read them until the child is finishing your sentences or "reading" them to you from memory. (Then, get more books!)
2. Build experiences to expand vocabulary.
When choosing books, try to pick a couple that have unfamiliar topics to your child's daily activities. For example, children might be interested to learn about the mountains or the ocean if they haven’t visited either. Another way to work on building vocabulary is to point out the things that are unfamiliar as you are driving in a car or going for a walk. When in a new store, take a few minutes to walk around and look at things that you may not have at home. Talk about the items by using overly descriptive language.
3. Ask questions.
Open ended questions are great conversation starters for children. Stick with Who, What, When, Where, and Why questions and ask a child about what might happen next in a book, about new experiences each new place you go, etc. Model correct answers if your child has difficulty answering (ask, the question, give some wait time, and then say something like, “Hmm, I think this is why…”, etc.).
Incorporating these three things into your everyday routines will have a lasting impact on your child's language development and expressive abilities.