Listening to Stories:
Parents have always known that reading aloud to children is important. Simply put, reading aloud to children gives them a head start on success in school. This is from Jim Trelease’s book The Read-Aloud Handbook:
“If a child has never heard the word, the child will never say the word; and if you have neither heard it nor said it, it’s pretty tough to read it and to write it.”
Parents are encouraged to read to elementary children daily. This includes children who can read by themselves. It also includes reading to children in the language(s) used at home.
Some parents are concerned their child does not hear English-language books read to them at home. Please use the YIS library, which has a collection of audio books that include a CD. Or access one of these websites for a collection of stories:
Enjoy these e-books in English and remember to read in your first language, too!
How to Promote Early Language Development
Talk, talk, talk with your child. I’m sure that you have heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect”. This is also true with language. The more practice they have with understanding and speaking, the better chance that they will have to develop their language. This also helps to let him know that what he has to say is important.
Whatever you do together, talk about it with your child. When you eat meals, take walks, go to the store, or visit the library, talk with him. These and other activities give the two of you a chance to ask and answer questions such as, “Which flowers are red? Which are yellow?” “What else do you see in the garden?” Challenge your child by asking questions that need more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
Asking a variety of questions is a good strategy to promote understanding and speaking. Not all questions are created equal. For example, “why” and “what if” questions require higher order thinking than “what” and “who”. Some question types are more appropriate than others depending on your age and skill. For example a two-year old will be able to answer “yes/no”, “what’s this”, “where” and “who” questions. They will most likely not be able to answer “why”, “when” or “what if”. Therefore when communicating with your child, ask a variety of “wh” questions, keeping in mind their cognitive development as well.
One of the best ways to promote language development is through literacy. Here are some good tips when reading with your child:
- Ask a question on each page. As mentioned in the above paragraph, use a variety of question types depending on your child’s development.
- Encourage your child to ask you questions. This will help to develop their productive language skills.
- Copy a few pages out of the book and encourage your child to sequence the ideas according to how they occurred in the story. After the sequencing is correct, encourage them to retell the story using, “first”, “next” and “last”. This will help to organize their language, a skill needed for early story telling and writing narratives. Story-telling and writing narratives are key components in the school curriculum.
- Role play the story allowing your child to take the lead role.
- Read books that give hints about what might happen next. Such books have your child lifting flaps, looking through cut-out holes in the pages, “reading” small pictures that stand for words (called “rebuses”), and searching for many other clues. Get excited along with your child as he hurries to find out what happens next. This will encourage the higher-order thinking skills such as predicting or inferring.