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  • Writer's pictureAlison McDonald

Using Books to Build Conversation

As we’ve already discussed in our previous blog, my goal when reading with children is always to interact with them and have a conversation, not to finish the book or to ‘tell’ them a story. On that note, here are some ways you can have a conversation while reading with your little one:

1. Follow your child’s lead. What are THEY interested in within the story? Do they just want to lift the flaps? Then talk about what’s behind each flap, don’t try to hold them back and battle with them to read the page before they open the flap. Talk about what they’re interested in, this gives them the best opportunity to learn language. If your little one points to something in the picture, pause your reading to talk with them about it.

2. Encourage them to participate in the story telling. There are heaps of ways to do this. If it’s a repetitive book, leave the end off a repeated phrase and allow your child to finish the sentence. For example, in the book ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle, the sentence on each page ends with a food, which is pictured. You can read the sentence ‘On Friday, he ate through 5….’ and then point to the oranges allowing your child to participate by filling in the blank.

3. Talk about past experiences while reading. I love Spot books; they often have flaps, have very simple short stories and they’re about dogs (even very young children often have a word for dogs or puppies and they love to say it!). Spot books are also excellent as they relate well to young children’s everyday experiences. There’s one book where Spot goes to the beach, another where he goes to school and one where he goes to the park. When reading books like these, ask your children questions like ‘do you remember going to the beach last weekend? We played in the sand too, just like Spot! What else did we do at the beach? What did you like about our trip to the beach?’. By asking questions like that, you allow your child to link new information with things they already know and are already familiar with and it makes the story more meaningful and personal for them.

When talking with parents, I often hear people say ‘my child just doesn’t like books.’ If that’s you, I encourage you to persist with book reading. Borrow books from friends or the library until you find one that your child does like. If they struggle to sit still for the whole story, don’t worry about trying to read all the words. Just focus on having positive interactions and giving them a chance to talk with you. Use silly voices, make noises, and have fun!

You can help your child see book reading as something special by treating it as important and special yourself. Make story time a special part of your daily routine. Perhaps you could set aside a special chair and make it just for story time. There’s a wonderful world out there full of stories, and each story holds wonderful learning opportunities!

Written by Bec Speech Pathologist Newcastle Speech Pathology

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