When reading a book with a child it can be tempting to just read through the text without straying from it, surely the book’s author knows best? When it comes to using books to elicit more language from preschoolers this couldn’t be further from the truth! Don’t get me wrong, the repetitive text that comes with most books for the preschool age set can be a great tool for initially engaging the child but you can do so much more.
Parents and teachers can be so much more than a “book on tape” by modifying how they read a book by changing the text, making comments, and asking quality questions.
The most important part of a book sharing interaction with a child is the quality of the interaction and how you modify your language to appropriately meet your child at their language skill level.
Here are some tips to improve a book sharing interaction with a preschool age child:
- Don’t be afraid to change the words in the book to make them more interesting or closer to your child’s vocabulary level
- Follow your child’s interest in the book by focusing on what is most engaging for them
- Comment, comment, comment – Commenting during book reading is even more important than asking questions. Watch what your child shows interest in and comment on it. Commenting promotes much more language development than asking direct questions.
- Verbalize the internal dialogue – An easy way to add more commenting to your interaction is to provide what might be the child’s internal dialogue. For example, saying “Wow, that bear is jumping and I see him smiling, he must be feeling happy” provides a child with significantly more language input than asking a direct question.
- Ask quality questions – Once your child is initiating lots of language during book reading you can begin to integrate more questions. Try to avoid quizzing the child but use questions and comments together to provide more opportunities for the child to develop his language.