S. Atenzon and C. Gipson 8 min read

The BEST Way to Help Kids with Speech Development at Home…Read Them a Story!

Reading provides opportunities to help your children learn language and improve your child’s speech. Here are some tips from our speech therapists to guide your child’s learning of new words.

Kids need a solid reading foundation by the end of year 1 in school.

To help your child with their speech, reading time can do more than expand their imagination. While they are in school, they are in an environment that aims to challenge students, and mold our littlest members of the community to achieve their utmost potential. And, while there will be children who thrive and blossom in the school environment, there will also always be those students who fly low under the radar, struggling to keep up with a curriculum that needs to be enforced at a certain pace. We know this because statistics have shown that the way that reading and spelling is taught by a curriculum often only caters to a mere 50% of students!
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Further studies have shown that children who don’t have a solid reading foundation by the end of year 1 may face some significant struggles leading into years 3 and 4. It’s a gap that keeps growing; the kids who thrive with their reading continue to flourish, leaving our little ones who are struggling, back on the shore. If they have missed the boat with learning to read, it can certainly be a struggle to catch up when the rest of the class begins reading to learn.

With the right plan of action, there is no need to fear – we can certainly help. Consider us a speed (or speech?) boat that provides that little bit of extra help to see your little one catch up to their peers. Reading is a key foundational skill not only for academic pursuits but it is a life skill that we at Better Speech want to equip our clients with.

Speech Language Pathologists have expert knowledge about all forms of language, whether that be verbal or written, and what we call metalinguistics (the awareness of language skills). With this expertise, we have the ability to swoop in, tucking those low flyers under our wings in order to teach them to soar, whilst liaising with the teachers to support their classwork.

Speech therapy for child and adult

Our speech therapists are ready and willing to provide assistance with the acquisition of foundation literacy skills (for example, identifying letters and their associated sounds), reading and writing, all the way up to written text comprehension or written narrative abilities. We are passionate about everyone having the right to achieve, and we want to help your little ones catch that boat.

,If you would like to book a free consultation with one of our speech and language pathologists, click here to go to our scheduling page.



How to use books to build your younger child’s language skills:

Here are some easy things to do while reading with your younger child.

1. Use a variety of words to talk about the pictures

Start with naming objects with nouns, (table, frog, dirt). Then follow with words that describe the item, (rough, gritty, soft, cold). Also use action words (jump, splash, thump), and locations (under, over, behind). Later start working in words about time (later, now, before, after).

2. Expand on what your child is telling you

Add more information to your child’s message. For example, if he or she says “baby shoes,” you can expand by saying “The baby’s shoes are on her feet.” Adding on to the message shows your child how to make longer utterances.

3. Start with books that are on a central theme or topic

Many books have a sequence of events within a story. While sequencing is an essential part of story telling and developing narratives, children who possess limited receptive or expressive vocabulary would have a difficult time following along and expressing the story events. For such children, start with books that target categories (things that go, things that fly, books on feelings, etc.). Model/repeat the target vocabulary and expand on it into a sentence (“What vehicle flies? An airplane. Yes, an airplane flies in the sky”).

4. Make reading more fun for your child

Reading doesn’t have to be a quiet, page-turning activity where every single word on the page is read. As a matter of fact, most children’s books should not be read word for word! Here are some suggestions to making book reading more fun:

  • Let your child read the book in his or her own way
  • Talk about the pictures instead of reading the words
  • Ask questions about the pictures
  • Act out what is happening in the book using toys, or by play acting
  • Turn books into a tactile activity by slapping Play-Doh on the pictures together and peeling it back to mimic lift the flap books.

5. Combine books with technology

If you are still struggling with the battle between technology and books, consider a new spin on books: the Moonlite storybook projector. It was one of the top toys of 2017. Moonlite is an easy-to-use storybook projector that works with the flashlight on your mobile phone to turn some of your child’s favorite storybooks into vivid projections, complete with sound effects and background music. You can project big, bright storybook images onto your ceiling or wall creating a fun way to share reading with your child. Moonlite has several well-known, engaging stories on their reels such as “Goodnight Moon,” and “Where is baby’s belly button?”


EMERGENT LITERACY STAGE (6yrs old and higher)

How to use books to build your older child’s language skills:
As your child grows and matures, the focus shifts from simply words and sentences, to better comprehension. With some children even though they are able to read words they have trouble understanding what they read. Reading comprehension involves understanding vocabulary, sequence of events, and figurative language. These children would have trouble answering questions about what they just read and recall information. Difficulties in reading comprehension can carry over to other subjects such as Science, History, and Math word problems.

1. Go back and review previous material
Fortunately, any academic material is introduced to children in stages. So if your child is struggling on a specific reading level you can always go back in levels and determine the reading level at which your child is strongest. Spend more time on that level and progress slowly. It is possible that they just need to spend more time and progress slower than the rest of the class or curriculum.

Do your own in-home assessment
Your local school district normally assesses a child’s reading level based on the reading standard they’ve adopted. However, you can conduct your own assessment to get a better understanding on what kind of books and overall reading material to get. Reading assessment tools can focus on reading fluency/speed and comprehension. You can also determine which and what kind of words the child is expected to read at their reading level and grade. Remember, the reading standards vary from state to state and district to district. Conducting your own assessments or screenings and collecting data can help you determine whether your child is falling behind compared to peers of the same and how to help them further. A quick, online reading assessment is available at Pioneer Books: https://pioneervalleybooks.com/pages/assessment, but you can find others with a search.

2. Review ‘wh’ questions for each story

Each story should answer the basic ‘wh’ questions (what, who, when, where, why, and how). Review each question separately and one paragraph or page at a time. Then summarize each story using each ‘wh’ question. Write out the answers in a structured way and keep the exercise consistent each time. Repetition and consistency helps children to remember and understand what is expected in the answers.

3. Practice story sequencing

As mentioned earlier, story sequencing is an integral part in the development of narratives or storytelling. The cognitive ability to sequence events is important in verbal storytelling and in comprehending what is read in order to answer concrete questions (ie what, who, when, where) and more abstract questions (ie why, and how). When practicing story sequencing use time concepts such as first, then, after that, last, before, after and other vocabulary related to time such as noon, day, night, dinner, breakfast, lunch, etc. Practice verbal storytelling about your day, vacation, special events while incorporating temporal concepts. Carry these skills over to story reading by reviewing the events in a sequence. The child or caregiver can draw the events to further organize the thoughts and concepts and help the child to remember key vocabulary.

4. Review the plot, characters, turning point (resolution), and moral/lesson of the story

Every story includes a plot, characters, resolution, and lesson that the characters learned. Plot is the sequence of events that occur in the story. The resolution is the high point of the story when the main character is learning the key lesson and then finally learns the lesson, which leads to maturity. Make a graph or chart that outlines these elements and discuss them with the child. Have the child write into the chart each time you read a story.

As you know, story time at any age is a great time to learn and share together. Now it can do more for your child to ensure they are developing the skills for their future.