By Lize van der Merwe – Speech Language Therapist with special interest in early language development
By now you know that creating a predictable bedtime routine helps set your child up for a better nights rest. A previous blog about Bedtime and Naptime rituals for Toddlers mentioned how reading a book together at bedtime promotes cognitive development as well as bonding between you and your little one.
But there is more. Interactive, shared book reading can also support a wide range of early language skills. We as parents tend to think we have to read to our child, but it actually has greater benefits if you read with your child. Children learn the most language during enjoyable back-and-forth interactions with you, their beloved parent. When you read with your child regularly, your child may learn language faster, enter school with a larger vocabulary, and become a more successful reader eventually.
How do you read with your child?
- Follow your child’s lead
As mentioned in this blog your bedtime routine must be fun. This is not the time to argue with child. Let your child choose the book she wants to read, even if you have read it umpteen times before. You could even allow your child to hold the book and decide when to turn the page. She is more engaged when she plays an active role in the book reading and an engaged child is a learning child!
- Make it a conversation
You can simply read the story, or you can talk about the characters, or illustrations or plot. Watch your child to see what she points to and make a comment about that. Having a conversation about the book helps your child understand the story better and it exposes her to more complex language. Besides, there is nothing more calming than a quiet conversation with mom or dad before bedtime.
- Don’t ask questions all the time
Remember, the aim is to have an enjoyable back-and-forth conversation. You do not want to test your child’s knowledge here. Pause often and wait for your child to participate, rather than bombarding her with questions. If you do want to ask a question, make sure it is an open-ended question such as, ‘How do you think Mouse felt when he found out the Gruffalo really existed?’
It is never too early to start reading with your child and reading with your child is never a waste. Happy reading!