Are you looking for tips on reading with your child? I am going to share my favourite ways to share books with my kids.
As a child I enjoyed reading and I expected it to be easy to read to my kids. I did lots of reading when to him when he was a baby, however as soon as he was on the move he had no interest in sitting and listening to me!
My son is autistic and as a toddler it was very difficult to get his attention. I kept at it and would try to read with him most days. Often my son would take the book away from me or close it. I found this really hard as I was desperate to engage with him and it was something he really struggled to do.
I have since found lots of ways to make reading a book more exciting and here I will give you some of my favourite ideas and tips.
So how to start reading with your child? First of all what are your child’s interests, what do they play with? If they love cars read a book about cars.
Make it Fun
Reading with your child should be fun and exciting. The stories you read can be part of play time, you can do some messy play with your child relating to the story. We have a cement tray that we use for messy play and it is great for story play too.
We absolutely love Julia Donaldson books in our house and the current favourite of my youngest is the Gruffalo. So yesterday we went for a walk in the woods and collected some leaves and sticks to create our own Gruffalo wood.
My son particularly enjoyed building the log pile house for his snake.
With a couple of well chosen sticks and pipe cleaners you can make your own Stick Man.
Another classic is to draw and paint your favourite characters.
Books on TV /Video
One of the reasons my son struggled to engage with books was due to his speech and language difficulties. You need to make sure the book is at the right level for each child. If they struggle to follow a story try reading books that they have seen on TV. Peppa Pig and Bing books match up well with episodes. Most kids have a favourite TV show so use this to get into books.
So many classic kids’ books are available on video, let them watch the video then read the book with them after – or later that day. The Cbeebies bedtime stories are great too we must have watched Ten Little Pirates and Shark in the Park hundreds of times.
Story bags are very popular in early years settings. You can buy ready made sacks but they are easy to do yourself and I just use things we have around the house. Essentially as you read the story you pull objects out of the bag as props. This helps to capture the child’s attention and also engage with the story. I loved using Dear Zoo with my kids when they were little it is a fantastic book for small kids.
My son also really enjoyed Spot the Dog.
As my autistic son is non-verbal we use picture exchange communication (PECs) for him to comment on books. Although it is not needed for them, my nieces and friends kids have really enjoyed doing this with books.
When to read?
Reading with your child before bed as part of your bedtime routine is a wonderful way to cuddle up and engage in reading with your child. We always have two stories straight after bath time then into bed. Let the child choose the book if they are able.
When your kids are sat at the table eating breakfast or lunch you have a captive audience and this can be a good time to read to them. If your child is tired sitting down with a book is a good way to relax with them. I don’t recommend reading to your child when they are bursting with energy but you can get some play related to books in during this time.
Enjoy some role play with stories like Room on the Broom. My son loves to put on the witches hat, tap the toy broom with his wand and go whooshing round the room.
Have a tea party with the Tiger who came to tea.
You can get some lovely sensory bag books designed for disabled children. I can get these from my local library and would really recommend them for children that are hard to engage with books.
Don’t worry if your child wants to read the same books over and over. Repetition is how we learn. Rhyming books are also great for kids learning language.
Why Books are important
When a child learns language they need to hear a word a number of times before they can say and or understand it. Part of the process of learning language is understanding what the word means. When we start to learn the meaning of words this is usually done visually. A child learns to call you mummy or daddy after they hear the word in association with you hundreds of times. If we are reading a book with a child we can use the pictures to support the child’s understanding of the language. As language develops the need for pictures reduces. For children with autism they may need far more visual supports.
Expanding on your favourite book
Make up the characters to play with
You can easily find pictures from your favourite books and characters online. I like to use Pinterest for this. Print out some pictures, get them laminated and use some Velcro and you have a new game to play. My son loves having his own broom that he can add the characters on as we read Room on the Broom. If you want some tips on laminating see my post about making PECs cards.
Tips for reading with your child:
1 – Get on child’s level – sit on the floor.
2 – Simple picture books to start and increase the level when they are ready.
3 – Be exciting, use silly voices.
4 – When a child is familiar with a book pause and let them fill in the blanks.
5 – Encourage the child to pay attention when you are reading a book. Attention is a key skill, if your child struggles with attention you might find some tips in my post about attention autism. Make sure you praise the child when they are paying attention: ‘good listening’; ‘great sitting well done’.
6 – Don’t open the book and start asking lots of questions. Give your child a chance to say something.
7 – Use language you know they understand. If they say ‘bear’ respond and repeat what has been said but add to it for example ‘big bear’.
The best advice I was given when my son wasn’t engaging with reading was to keep going. Eventually he then became interested in looking at books himself and wanted me to read them to him Yay! As with most things perseverance and patience got us there.
Now my non-verbal 4 year old loves books, he spends the majority of his free time looking through books. I really think reading to your kids is important, it helps with speech, language, reading skills, learning and its fun.
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