If I asked you the following question, "how does your child like books?" I bet that your answer would fall into one of the 2 following descriptions:
Parent #1: answering with a smile "my child loves books, we snuggle together and read at least 15 minutes before bed every night. Also throughout the day my child will bring me books and we will read them on and off all day long."
Parent #2: answering with a grimace on their face "my child doesn't like books! Well they like them but they will not let me read to them, they won't sit still, they want to turn the pages, and don't even think about giving them a book with real pages because they will rip them or tear them out. We try to read books at bedtime but all it ends up being is a power struggle."
If your answer is close to either of these, this post is for you!!! I have lots of hints for the first parent to make your many times with books throughout your day a way to get your child talking more AND I have lots of hints for parent #2 to make books a more fun activity with your child.
Let's think about books....here's a couple other questions to think about:
What does your child like about books? Possible answers.....................
1. They like the pictures.
2. They like to chew on them.
3. They like to turn the pages.
4. They like sitting on my lap and having that special time together.
5. They like listening to me read the story.
What makes books difficult?
1. They like to rip the pages.
2. They won't sit and listen to the story.
3. They want to turn the pages and have control of the book.
4. They want to hear the same story over and over again.
5. The books that have the parts that make noise drive me crazy.
The suggestions that I am going to share will help both parent #1 and parent #2 because we are going to change our focus from reading books with our child to using books to pop language. By taking the "reading to the child" part out of our focus we will make the interactions with books more fun and that will help parent #2, plus all the suggestions will also pop language.
When you want to use a book to pop language you need to make it into an activity for turn taking, setting up opportunities for your child to use a word/sign, etc. How are we going to do that? First think of things that your child loves...characters from TV shows or movies, animals, tools, whatever. Then get a couple books that are about what your child loves. In addition, before you try to use the book, gather some toys that would go with the book. For example: if your child loves Dora, get a Dora book and then bring out any Dora toys that you have in the house. If your child loves animals then grab a couple of their stuffed animals or plastic animals that you would have. If there are fun actions in the book, let's say making a cake, bring a bowl and a spoon with you before you sit down to "read" the book.
Once you are ready, you have the book and the fun props with you, you are going to use your one and two word models, animation, and props to make this book a fun interactive experience. Let's use Dora as an example. You have the book about Dora and you have a Dora figurine and maybe some play cookware. The book is about Boots birthday party. You are not going to read the book!!! You are going to model and comment. So, you open the book and there is Dora...."hi Dora" you might say and even wave to her. Now wait and see what your child does. The next page might be talking about Boots birthday....you know that so you could say, "we need to make a cake for Boots birthday, let's find a bowl" (which you have right there.) You and your child find the bowl and a spoon and then you can "stir" up the cake...pretending but doing the actual motions. You could pretend to stick your finger in the batter and say "mmmmm" while licking your finger off, followed by "good cake, or nummy cake" and see what your child does. Build your next turn off of what your child does. Now, you might only go through a page or two, but the more fun your child is having with you and the book and the props, the more they will be interested in trying this "book thing" again.
You want to avoid power struggles with the book. As soon as your child grabs the book and takes over, don't worry or try to grab it back. You can interact with the props, talk to Dora "oh, Emily has the book, I wonder what happens next?" and wait. You could also keep cooking with the props. Make it look fun and I bet your child will want to join in with you again. Then you might be able to get the book back and comment about another picture in the book.
WARNING....do not get caught in the trap of asking questions with a book!!! Yes, I know you do this :) but it will not help your child add words or enjoy books more. Here is a simple trick to avoid getting into the question trap. Comment about what you are seeing in the book instead of asking questions.
Example: We open a page and we want to say "where is the ball?", but instead you point to the ball and say "I see a ball", or "ball" or "red ball" and then wait.... Instead of saying "what is Pooh doing?" you say "Pooh is eating, num num". Try to keep the focus on interaction and taking turns and not on "quizzing". If your child grabs a book and randomly points to a picture say "oh, you found a duck, quack quack".
Here is another fantastic and fun thing you can do with or for your child. You can make a simple book of their favorite things. Just rip pictures out of magazines, mount them on a piece of paper, maybe slip them into a plastic sleeve and put in a 3 ring binder...and you have a very exciting book. If your child loves trains, you can fill this book with trains. If your child loves animals, fill it with animals. You can also find pictures of your child's favorite characters and make a book just of that. This is very low tech but your child will love it and it makes them enjoy books more and will pop more language.
It is important for you to look at books in two different ways. This post was all about using books to pop language. But I don't want you to give up reading books for just enjoyment. If your child loves snuggling together and listening to you read to them, then please keep doing this. It is important in so many ways. And if your child isn't interested in having books read to them yet, maybe by making books fun and interactive your child will want to use books more during the day and eventually enjoy the reading time together.
Enjoy this week....bring out your books, props and just have fun.