- Why should we help children enjoy reading?
- Why is reading so important to develop language skills?
- 8 Tips to Help Children Enjoy Reading and Develop Language Skills
- Are you helping your kids enjoy books?
I would be the first to agree that raising a reader is crucial. When we help children enjoy reading, it also helps them develop language skills. I am lucky that my son is a natural bookworm and has a formidable collection of books. We were also glad to watch him grow enjoying reading and were secretly relieved he never found computer games appealing. Fortunately, we are a family of book nerds and were able to provide him with an environment to nurture his love for reading.
Why should we help children enjoy reading?
I had a chat with speech-language pathologist Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP, who has studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and gained her Master’s in Speech-language pathology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has worked in pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, early intervention, and home health. She is currently the President and Founder of Expressable, an online speech therapy company that envisions a modern and affordable way for anyone who needs speech therapy to access these vital services.
Leanne says she witnesses first hand just how important reading is to a child’s social, academic, and emotional development. It helps expand their imagination, develops their listening and comprehension skills, and improves their vocabulary and enunciation.
Children begin developing the foundational skills they’ll need to read and write very early in life. That’s why parents should help children enjoy reading. They should begin reading to children when they’re toddlers, helping build good habits that will last a lifetime.
Reading is especially important for children who have a speech or language disorder. Across the country, millions of children have communication problems that affect their growth and development. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), children with communication difficulties are more likely to have problems with reading and writing, which can negatively impact their social skills, classroom performance, and ability to express themselves. One study found that approximately 52% of children with language impairment also have reading difficulties.
Why is reading so important to develop language skills?
Based on a study conducted at the University of Michigan, there are five early reading skills that are essential to helping children develop their language abilities. These include:
- Phonemic Awareness: This refers to our ability to hear and identify individual sounds in spoken words. Reading helps develop these skills as children hear the diverse range of sounds, letters, and words in written text.
- Phonics: This skill helps us connect the letters in our written language with the sounds of spoken language. Children who read more often have an easier time correlating different sounds with different letters or groups of letters.
- Vocabulary: Generally speaking, the more words children consume through reading, the larger vocabulary they’ll have.
- Reading Comprehension: The more children are read to, the better they’ll be able to fully understand the content and meaning of what was read.
- Fluency: This helps children read text accurately, smoothly, and quickly.
Understanding the importance of reading is the easy part. But keeping your child excited and engaged when reading – not always so simple! While there are definitely some natural book worms among us, many children can be resistant. Some struggle to pay attention, others prefer televisions and cartoons, and some just would rather pull out the blocks. That’s why we need to help children enjoy reading.
I asked Leanne if she had some helpful tips and ideas to get kids excited to read again and she offers the following.
8 Tips to Help Children Enjoy Reading and Develop Language Skills
1. YOU are in Charge of books
First things first – books are amazing resources. They open gateways to literacy and imagination. But, don’t let books boss you around! When you help children enjoy reading, you don’t have to read every word on the page. If your child is still a toddler, complicated language in a book might go over their head. Instead, spend time looking at the pictures, commenting on what you see, and checking to see whether they can point out what you’re referencing.
2. Label and Comment While Keeping it Fun
Incorporating pointing, movements, and fun voices can help kids stay engaged in books. Make facial expressions or imitate a character’s voice. You can also switch up the tone of your voice when a character is happy, sad, or shouts for excitement. We want them to learn to enjoy reading – so we should try to make it fun and not a chore.
3. Ask Lots of Questions
Make sure to ask lots of questions as you go throughout the book. This will help your child’s critical thinking abilities as they process and formulate their answers. For older children, ask open-ended questions, such as: “Why do you think that?” Or, “What do you think is going to happen next?” For younger children, asking simple yes and no questions can still stimulate the mind.
Chances are, there’s going to be many occasions when your child answers the question incorrectly. This is okay – they’re still learning. However, instead of saying “no” or telling them they’re wrong, try reinforcing the right answer. For example, if your child labels an animal a “cat” when it’s actually a “pig,” point to the picture and repeat “pig.” And of course, when they do get the right answer, make sure to congratulate them and celebrate their wins.
4. Checking for Comprehension
Take opportunities to use pictures in books to your advantage. See if your child can point to pictures that you name, for example, “where’s the cow?” If they need help, do some modeling: “Cow!” After time, your child may begin to imitate you – that’s a good thing! And of course, you can always follow up with some language expansions: “Cow says moooo!”
5. Choose Books with Rhyming
Some books have fantastic rhymes. These are perfect for developing pre-literacy skills. Rhymes help keep children engaged and even encourage them to get involved by clapping or singing along. As your child gets older, you can start to stick to a book’s written text more and more.
6. Make Reading a Daily Routine
One study found that children will hear nearly 300,000 more words by the time they reach Kindergarten if they read just one book a day! That’s a lot. And while it’s not always possible with our hectic schedules, try to squeeze in one at least before bedtime.
7. Keeping books inexpensive
There are tons of great resources out there to get your hands on some books without spending a fortune, too – public libraries, book swaps, Facebook marketplace, neighborhood libraries, and even free online books. Don’t forget that kids crave repetition, so you might go through some real favorite book phases with them!
8. Rereading Books is Totally Fine
Yes, it can be a mind-numbing experience. But the fact is, when children glob onto a favorite book, they often don’t let go. This is okay! Children will often pick up new vocabulary words, learn new concepts, and envision new ideas.
I think these are great tips! What do you think?
Are you helping your kids enjoy books?
Are you raising a reader?