When your child has a cochlear implant, there are two key strategies to help them develop language skills. The first strategy involves surrounding them in an environment of rich listening and language experiences. The second strategy is sharing books together. Books can help your child to develop language and reading skills, and is an important part of learning throughout their life.
It’s never too early to start reading with your child! Exposing your child to books from an early age teaches them the important role books play in learning throughout life.
Books expose your child to story ideas and topics which they wouldn’t typically be exposed to on a day to day basis, for example science, nature, or geography. Repeated reading of certain books encourages your child to recall stories and retell them to other people. They will learn to share their knowledge of characters and storylines. This helps shape their self-image as readers.
Here are five strategies to help your child become interested in books:
1) Incorporate books in your daily life
By incorporating reading books into your daily routine, your child will have regular opportunities to explore books and learn from them. Just like getting dressed in the morning or eating meals, make reading books a daily activity for your child.
You could incorporate book reading at a consistent time each day, such as before a nap or after a bath. Make reading time special for your child by creating 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 them a sense of ownership over the place and a sense of purpose. Your child will make the connection that whenever you go to the nook, and will know it is reading time, and they will then understand the expected routine.
2) Expose your child to others reading
Your child will learn a lot about the world through observation and exploration. You can use this to build their interest in reading. Encourage your family members to read with and in front of your child. Your child will learn the importance of books and reading skills if you show a shared love of reading in your family.
3) Make reading an interactive activity
Reading by yourself to your child, or your child reading alone is okay. But, reading together is much better for improving communication and reading skills! This is most important for infants. You don’t need to read all of the words on the pages. Instead, interact with the pictures in the book. Make sounds that match the people, animals, or objects that are shown. For example, use a loud booming voice for characters like bears, and use a meek or squeaky voice for characters like mice. Singing or reading with a musical rhythm can also help to keep your child’s listening attention.
You could also perform actions that are shown in the book. For example, a baby splashing in the bath, patting a puppy, or kissing a teddy bear. Use objects in the house which match those that are in the story. For example find the food, shoes, or tree that look similar to what’s in the book.
4) Create an experience book starring your child
We’ve talked about experience books before, which are powerful tools to develop your child’s listening and reading skills, and knowledge of the world around them. An experience book is creating a story specifically about what your child knows or experiences they have had. It’s a great way to get your child interested in reading a complete “story” from beginning to end, which will help to develop their reading skills.
You can include any experience of your child, for example going to school, to the zoo, shopping, cooking at home or playing with friends. Put together a book with pictures and words about these different activities, and then read through it with your child. You can also encourage your child to share their book with other family and friends.
5) Go to the library
Make going to the library a special and regular trip for your child. Encourage your child to choose books that interests them, and explore the new books together. 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, it might be a particular author or illustrator. If you notice a theme, give your child suggestions for books, but don’t make them choose a particular one. By giving your child control over their choices you’ll build their independence and help to encourage 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.
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