Monday, September 20, 2010

Enhancing Language Skills Through Reading Aloud

This is from's email this week.

Enhancing Language Skills Through Reading Aloud

By Deborah Lott
Super Star Speech

One of the best activities you can do with your children to encourage language acquisition is reading together. I started reading to my children when they were two or three months old. The first books we read were bright and colorful board books with a single word or short sentence per page. We soon progressed to books of nursery rhymes and books that were illustrated songs. Although my babies didn't understand the words at first, they enjoyed the bright pictures, the rhythm of the words, rhymes, and songs, and the cuddling with Mommy. Story time became a treasured part of the day for both of us.

Most parents know that reading to their children is very important. But did you know that reading straight through the book from beginning to end is not always the very best way to stimulate your child's language skills? Studies have shown that when children are engaged more actively in reading, their vocabulary, comprehension, and language expression are greatly improved. Here are some ideas for new ways to read a book:

  1. Point to pictures and name them. Ask your child to name the pictures. Action words and adjectives can be labeled as well. You could ask, "Can you find an animal that is tall?" or "What is that girl doing?"
  2. After you read a page, ask questions about the story. The simplest questions are factual ones..."Who said...?" "What happened...?" More difficult are "why" questions.
  3. Ask, "What do you think will happen next?"
  4. Have your child retell the story after you finish reading it (narration). {Betsy here: This is a great skill to begin especially if you are considering teaching following the classical method.}
  5. Have your child tell you the story by looking at the pictures. Or the two of you alternate pages, making up a story to go with the pictures.
  6. Interrupt your reading occasionally to comment on the story or setting or to explain a concept or define a word.
  7. Read expressively! {Betsy here:  You'll find that not only does reading expressively captures your child's attention but also trains them to read more expressively on their own}
  8. Rhymes and songs are wonderful for language development--even if you can't carry a tune!
Most importantly, keep reading fun! Use these suggestions to enhance your storytime, not to turn it into a lesson. Enjoy the time spent with your child. Snuggling up on the couch and reading together has always been one of my favorite ways to spend time with my children.

Deborah Lott is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom of four. She has written the Super Star Speech series of books to help parents correct their children's articulation errors at home. She has also designed a series of homeschool enrichment games that are sold at Currclick. She blogs about speech and language development and therapy at

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