Reading books with your child is a great way to help your child develop early language and literacy skills and prepare for school, and this is especially true if your child has a cochlear implant. But how can you make sure they get the most out of each book?
Start Reading Early
Introduce your child to books at a very early age. When your child is able to sit on your lap on their own, that’s a good time to start.
Make books a constant companion for you and your child. You can do this by making them accessible and normal; have books lying around in the house, in the door of a car, in their stroller, or in your bag. When you’re at home, let your child see you or other family members reading. It’s not hard to do this: just read in the living room instead of going to your bedroom or den.
Choosing the Right Book
The most important part is to always use age-appropriate books. After all, you want your child to understand the book and not just hear the words.
Let your child to choose the books that are interesting for them. For the very youngest children start with just picture books and then introduce progressively more difficult books as their skills increase. Go slowly, because you don’t want to risk overwhelming your child.
On that note, don’t be afraid to read the same book over and over. Repetition gives your child lots of exposure to specific words or themes, helping them to build and then reinforce their knowledge.
How to Read to Your Child
Set aside a specific time each day dedicated to reading. Right before going to bed is a popular time because it’s usually quiet and your child will be more relaxed.
When you’re reading, encourage your child to interact with you and the story. Let them pick up and hold the book, or follow along with you and repeat a sentence that you’ve just read. And, ask them specific questions, like “Where is the mouse?”, “Where is the man going?”, or “What is her name?” If your child shows difficulties answering the questions, you can go ahead and say the right answers. This way they can hear the answer and eventually learn how they should respond.
Keep your child entertained by going beyond just reading the words. By using facial gestures and motions, speaking in different voices to represent different characters, or emphasizing certain words, you can make a book come alive. Nursery rhymes are a good way to do this because the rhyming structures lend themselves to a more musical sound. If it’s possible, bring in some related toys or objects to play with as you read.
To make reading even more social, take your child out to local book readings. Where? Just ask your library or local book store.
For Older Children
When your child gets a bit older and can read on their own, support their independence.
One great way to do this is by pairing a printed book with its audio book. That way your child can not only read the book but they’ll also hear it, letting them connect words to their specific sounds.
And, talk with them about their interests and which books they like to read. Once you’ve got an idea of what they’ll read then go out and grab a few stories to leave on their bed. Or, go out to the book store or library and let them pick a few titles that they want.
This post was written with help from Joanna Brachmaier, a rehabilitation and education specialist at MED-EL.