1. Read Slowly
Children learn more from books when they are read slowly. It will sound very weird to you to read so slowly, but trust me: it will help! You can also add longer pauses at the end of each sentence.
2. Point While Naming Pictures
Talk about pictures. Point to them as you name them. Your child will associate that word with its object. This is very important for vocabulary development.
Around 12-months-old, ask Your Child to Point to Pictures in the Book as you are reading. Say, “where’s the dog?” or “point to the toes.” This will help build your child’s vocabulary and knowledge of common objects. It can also help keep your child engaged in the story.
3. Be Engaging
Read the book with enthusiasm for the story. Your love for reading will rub off on your child. Your voice will make reading fun!
You can even go as far as having different voices for different characters. If something is scary, surprising, or funny, provide the appropriate emotion. Also, by varying your voice and showing emotion, you are teaching your child the definition of those emotions and what those emotions actually look like.
4. Read face to face
Sit in front of your child so they can see your eyes and face while reading.
Babies and children learn so much from your face. They learn the subtle information that faces have to offer. They learn to follow gaze cues, recognize identities and emotions, and learn the language.
5. Ask Questions & Think Out loud
Ask your child “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how” questions as you read.
Allow your child to ask you questions. When you answer your child’s questions, remember to “think out loud.” Talk your child through your reasoning about how you came to an answer. Your child does not need to answer the question, you can answer your own questions.
When you ask questions, you are practicing listening skills and checking for comprehension. By thinking out loud and answering questions, you are teaching your child how to answer questions.
6. Re-Read Books That You’ve Already Read & Read New Books Too
Has your child ever asked you to read the same book so many times that you thought your head might explode? That’s great! Children also learn more from books when they are read over and over again. The more times you read a book, the more your child will pick up details and vocabulary from the book. Children learn through repetition.
Read new books too! The more you read, the more vocabulary your baby hears the bigger their vocabulary will be.
Here are a few additional strategies to use while reading children who are verbal
1. Do Activities that are Similar to What Happened in the Book
I am a big fan of making crafts that have to do with the book. Even young children enjoy crafts, with help of course! Or, you could have a puppet show! Act out scenes from the book and retell the story. All of these things will help your child’s retention and understanding of what happened in the book as well as build their vocabulary.
2. Make Predictions
Start from the beginning! Make predictions based on the book’s cover. If your child doesn’t have a prediction, make one yourself and talk your child through your thinking.
As you read the book, continue to make predictions (i.e., “What do you think will happen next?”)
Predicting is a powerful language/literacy skill that will help with reading comprehension.
Here are additional strategies to use while reading pre-verbal children
1. Feel Textures
When reading touch and feel books, feel the different textures and encourage your child to feel them too. Talk about how they feel. Use descriptive words such as “soft,” “rough,” and “long.”
2. Describe Objects, Make Animal Sounds
Say “cow” and “moo.” Talk about the size and color of the cow. Your child will start associate concepts with objects. Did you know, animal sounds count as words? Yes, they do!
Words in baby books are for older babies and toddlers. Feel free to “write your own story” as you read the book.
3. Use Simple Language
With preverbal children, use 1-2 word phrases. Talk slow. Exaggerate your tone.” Your child will attend more to your speech if you talk in this way.