This week is Read Across America Week and schools across the country are celebrating literary works of authors like Dr. Seuss and many others. This annual celebration highlights the importance of literacy and the benefits of reading books with children.
Reading helps teach language and fosters stronger vocabulary, phonological skills, and critical thinking. Reading broadens your knowledge base and connects children to new experiences and cultures they may otherwise never encounter. Strong literacy skills can be established at an early age and I believe that parents can encourage a passion for book reading early on.
When you read with your child you are engaging in a joint activity. Joint attention is the shared focus or shared attention of two individuals on an object or activity. Joint attention is important for language comprehension and learning new vocabulary. Joint book reading occurs when a parent / adult brings a book into the environment of a child and they share in the reading by pointing to objects gazing at each other, and other verbal and nonverbal interactions.
Parents can easily engage in joint book reading at home - all that is required is your time, a book, and your child’s attention. Here are 4 easy tips from SLP Dr. Ruth Stoekel on how to effectively engage in joint book reading with your child. ** adapted from medbridgeeducation.com
1. Let the Child Take the Lead
Give your child several options of age-appropriate books and let them choose which they want to read. Let them turn the pages at their own rate. Don’t feel the need to read all the words on a page or read the entire book. Encourage your child to attend to the pictures and words, making allowances for their attention span.
2. Make It Interactive
Comment on what you see on a page, then pause to to indicate for your child to make their own comment. If your child responds, occasionally repeat what they said or expand on their comment. If your child doesn’t respond, don’t stop and require them to say something, just move on.
If your child points to a picture, make a statement that includes an attribute (e.g., “That’s a BROWN bear.”) or describes an action (e.g., “That boy is jumping!”). Try to make it feel like a conversation about what you are seeing together in the pictures, or about the depicted sequence of events.
3. Relate It to Real-World Experiences
Remind your child about things they have seen that relate to what you are seeing in the book. For example, if you are looking at animals, talk about where your child saw those animals, such as at the zoo or on a farm. Maybe the house in the picture looks like a house in your neighborhood, or there is a picture of a beach that brings up memories of a family trip.