Children love stories - whether at bedtime, in a quiet 5 minutes or a ‘made up’ story in the car. We can use this time to maximise our children’s language development. There are so many ways you can use a single book to encourage conversation, teach new words, develop memory and storytelling skills. Exciting characters, magical places and crazy adventures read in funny voices can transport your child to another world and develop their language skills on the way!
Attention and Listening Skills:
Good attention and listening skills form the basis of your child’s play, language and learning development. 1-1 time reading stories with your child will support them to develop ‘joint attention’ through focusing on the same activity as you and following your lead. This could be through pointing out colourful pictures or using ‘noisy’ or ‘feely’ books for them to focus on, listening for their turn and enjoying matching your different voices to the characters.
For older children re-telling the story or answering simple questions about it will support their ability to process spoken information and learn to sequence ideas.
Vocabulary underpins our communication – we need words to be able to get across our message and understand what is being said to us. Stories are great for teaching new words as we are immersed in descriptive language, whilst having pictures to show us what the words mean. You can support vocabulary development by pointing out items on the page to teach new words, labelling pictures for the child and encouraging them to do the same. Ask your child to ‘find the...’, give them a ‘category’ to look for eg ‘find everything that is red/all of the food/animals’. Pretend you can’t see a character or have forgotten what things are called for your child to ‘teach’ you.
‘Wh’ questions are used all day every day and understanding them is important for conversation and learning. ‘wh’ questions include: who, what, where, when, why (and how!). These can be asked after each page to promote discussion about characters, places and activities. Asking them at the end of the story will also support memory skills by remembering what has happened. Sequencing can also be practised through this by encouraging your child to discuss what happened first/next/last – this is important in following daily routines and telling you about their day.
Reasoning and inferencing (making judgements and reading situations) follows on from ‘wh’ questions. You can support your child’s prediction skills by asking ‘what happened next?’. Ask ‘why….because’ questions, for example ‘Why is the boy crying?…because his toy is broken’. You can focus on emotional language using the pictures to support their judgements. Reading facial expressions and developing Theory Of Mind (thinking about how other people might feel) is important to your child’s communication with others and social skills.
Imaginative and Creative Stories:
If you don’t have a book to hand or are feeling creative ‘made up’ stories can sometimes be the best! As well as all of the above skills being put to use, you can share the experience by making up the story together. You could start it off and encourage them to tell you the next bit. Younger children can be supported by giving prompts and ‘lead ins’ such as ‘and then they saw a …..’ and ask questions such as ‘what do they look like/where are they going/what can they see’.
Older children enjoy making their own stories into a book. Encourage them to write their story and illustrate it. You can make this into a project by writing chapters, a contents page, a blurb and even their own barcode!
Why not give it a go?
If you want some hints and tips on techniques that you can use when reading (or telling) stories to your child just get in touch and let us know.
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