When your child has a cochlear implant, there are two big ways to help them develop language skills: surrounding them with an environment of rich listening and language experiences, and giving them access to books—and reading those books together. Getting your child interested in books can help your child develop not just language skills, but also literacy skills, and is an important part of learning throughout his or her life.
It’s never too early to start reading with your child, and exposing them to books from an early age will only help them to understand the important role books play in a life of learning. Books can help expose your child to many stories and topics that they wouldn’t typically be exposed to on a day to day basis—like science, nature, or geography—and in reading them over and over, you give your child with an opportunity to learn about these topics and repeatedly hear the words specific to the topics. Here are 5 ways that you can foster your child’s interest in books and reading.
1. Incorporate books in your daily life.
By incorporating book reading into your day-to-day routine you’ll give your child repeated opportunities to explore books and learn from them. Just as your child will regularly get dressed in the morning or eat meals, books too can be introduced as a part of an expected routine.
When should you read? You could incorporate book reading at a consistent time each day: like before a nap, after a bath, or before bed time. To make the reading time even more special you could create a “book nook,” a specific place in your house where you and your child always go to read together. Creating this place with your child will give him or her a sense of ownership over the place and a sense of purpose: whenever you go to the nook your child will connect that with reading time, and will know the expected routine.
2. Expose your child to others reading
Much of what your child will learn about the world comes through observation and exploration. You can use this to build their interest in reading: make books and reading a normal sight. By having books in your home, and by you reading books in front of your child, you’ll show your child the importance of reading.
3. Make reading an interactive activity
Reading by yourself, or your child reading by his or herself, is okay—reading together is better. And it’s especially necessary in the early years of your child reading books. You don’t need to read all of the text on the pages; instead, interact with the pictures in the book. Make sounds that match the people, animals, or objects that are shown: loud booming voices for characters like bears or meek and squeaky voices for characters like mice. Singing or reading rhythmically can also help keep your child’s listening attention.
You could also perform actions that are shown in the book: a baby splashing in the bath, patting a puppy, kissing a teddy bear. Do this either with your body—like imitating movement with your fingers—or using your child’s toys to model the actions.
4. Create an experience book starring your child
We’ve talked about experience books before, but they’re such powerful tools that I just need to talk about it again here. A great way to build on your child’s knowledge of the world around them is by creating a book specifically about that knowledge. Experience books, created with a story that incorporates the activities your child has in his or her life, are a great way to get your child interested in reading a complete “story” from beginning to end.
What experiences should you include? Anything your child has been involved in: going to school, or the zoo, or shopping; cooking at home; playing with friends. Put together a book with pictures and words about these different activities, and then read through it with your child or allow them to read it with other family and friends.
5. Go to the library
Make going to the library a special, but frequent, trip for your child. Let your child to choose books that interest him or her, and give plenty of time for your child to explore through the library to find something new. Pay attention to the types of books that your child chooses because there might be a particular theme that connects the different books—like animals, cars, or princesses—or a particular author or illustrator. If you notice a theme like one of these then use that information to give them suggestions, but don’t force your child to choose a particular book. By giving them control over their choices you’ll build their independence and help to foster their enjoyment of book reading.
This post was written with help from Ingrid Steyns, a rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL.
Nelson, L. H., Wright, W., & Parker, E. W. (2015). Embedding Music Into Language and Literacy Instruction for Young Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Young Exceptional Children, January, p. 1-12.
Spencer, L. J., Barker, B. A., & Tomblin, J. B. (2003). Exploring the language and literacy outcomes of pediatric cochlear implant users. Ear and hearing, 24(3), 236.