Tips to get a conversation started
Watching your child read their first words can be a joyful thing. As a parent, you are witnessing the unlocking of a treasure chest—a lifetime of people to meet and places to visit through the written word.
Reading aloud with your little one is a great way to set the stage for this moment. You can start small with your baby, sharing books that have a picture and a word or two on each page. Once your child is ready for longer stories (around age two), you can begin giving them a chance to take the lead.
What can you do? Encourage your child to talk more as you read stories together. This helps children build language skills and grow their vocabulary.
How do you do it?
Let’s take a toddler favorite: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. As you read together, you can:
- Repeat a word your child says. Yes, that is a bird!
- Offer new words. That kind of bird is called a pigeon.
- Add information. The pigeon looks angry (sad/disappointed/frustrated) that he can’t drive the bus.
- Connect to your child’s experience. We saw pigeons in the park this morning.
- Highlight differences. Here is a picture where the pigeon looks angry. Can you find one where he looks happy?
Once your child has a 50- to 60-word vocabulary, try this!
Use questions as you share stories together:
- Pause when the book repeats a phrase to give your child a chance to say it instead of you. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do… [you see]?
- Ask your child to remember what happened. You can do this at any part of the story, not just at the end. What happened when Goldilocks sat in Baby Bear’s chair?
- Ask your child to talk about what’s happening in a picture. Tell me what’s happening here.
- Ask questions about the pictures in the book. What’s your favorite part of the picture? Where is the balloon? What is the child doing? Who took the carrots?
Reading should be fun, so make read-aloud a conversation and not a quiz. Keep the conversation going so your child can participate with their current language skills. Over time, let your child take on more and more of the “storytelling” as a way to build their language and literacy skills. You might be amazed at just how much they know and can share with you!
You can find more information on early literacy here.