Making photo books with your kids is a fabulous way to help increase their language skills. It matters not if you are a mom simply looking for creative ways to provide your toddler with a language-rich environment or a dad looking for ways to help your kindergartener learn to tell stories– photo books are a flexible tool than can be used in a huge variety of ways.
How to use picture books? The general idea goes a little something like this:
Take pictures during a fun event such as a trip to the zoo or the beach,
Capture key moments in the pictures,
Print the pictures that highlight the key moments from the event,
Spend a few afternoons gluing the pictures onto construction paper, letting your children help cut, glue and color around the pictures; if your child is old enough, help him to write captions for the pictures, and
Laminate the pages and have them bound into a book that can be read over and over.
One you’ve done this, you’re all set up to use the books to help increase language. Kids love these books because they are based in experiences that they had; this makes the books both meaningful and fun. And children usually want to read the books over and over again– as annoying as this can be, it makes picture books the perfect vehicle for developing language.
With toddlers, you can use the pictures to build on language. Most toddlers love to start looking at pictures of themselves around 12-24 months, right when they are starting to rapidly increase their vocabulary and move from one-word phrases to two-word phrases. Photo books create excellent opportunities for using parallel talk, description, and expansion to help children develop new vocabulary and help them make the jump from one to two words.
Check out this video. I use expansion with my daughter, who is looking at a picture of herself riding a toy motorcycle with her brother, James. First, I wait for her to say something (“ride!”). Then I build on her words by putting them into short phrases, two different times. As a result, she comes back with a two-word phrase of her own (“James riding”)! No, it doesn’t always work this quickly….I’ve been using parallel talk, description and expansion with her for the past year and it’s only really starting to pay off now.
Toddlers aren’t the only ones who benefit from photo books, though. Using these books with preschoolers and early elementary age children can be great way to work on a whole variety of language-related skills. You can:
Work on sequencing by having your child lay out the pictures in the right order as you make the book,
Work on pre-writing and writing skills by having your child trace words you write or write his own words and sentences as you make the book,
Work on vocabulary by defining new words and integrating those words into the story and by using time words such as first, next, then and finally,
Work on language by using indirect correction, in which you correct errors in your child’s grammar by restating what he said, correctly and conversationally (e.g. Your child: “I runned really fast!” You: “You did. You ran so fast!”), and
Work on memory by having your child practice telling the story with and without the picture book in front of him.
Finally, photo books are a fantastic way to work on narrative (story) development. Developing an understanding of narrative structure (the typical flow of stories) is essential to being able to engage in conversations, tell others about things that have happened, and understand academic texts later in the elementary years. Enhancing narrative development is an asset for any child; I work on it with my son, often. It’s also a skill that can be very hard for children with language delays and specific diagnoses such as autism, so working on it with these children is essential. Using photo books to visually show stories in which children actually participated helps make narrative structure more concrete and easier to understand. At first, you can use photo books to help your child understand that the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Later, during the early elementary age years, you can help your child form a story that has the following elements:
Setting (“We were at the zoo”)
Goal (“We wanted to see the animals,”)
Problem (“But Sally was scared of the lion.”)
Feelings (“I was so mad, because I wanted to see the lion.”)
Attempt to solve the problem (“So we went to see the owls instead. Then Sally was ready to see the lion. Mom just covered her eyes.”)
Conclusion (“After that, we had a really fun day.”)
It doesn’t have to be perfect, of course. Stories are messy, just like life. They won’t fit perfectly into those elements, nor should they. But telling stories in a way that wraps loosely around those story elements, over and over and over again, will help your child begin to internalize the flow of stories.
There is so much to do with picture books that the possibilities seem endless. What’s more, at the end of the day, you also have a book full of memories that your children will cherish for years to come. And that’s just priceless.
Becca Jarzynski, M.S., CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. Check out her blog Child Talk and follow her on facebook at facebook.com/ChildTalk. Becca publishes with Stephanie Sigal M.A., CCC-SLP on ASHAsphere, the blog for The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association.
Reading books with your child can provide experiences and vocabulary that he or she may not be exposed to on a daily basis. Experience allows children to gain understanding. When a child understands vocabulary and situations, he or she has the foundation to use these words in verbal language.
Always read with your child face to face with the book next to your face, not in front of your mouth. This will allow your child to see how you move your mouth when you say words, see your facial expressions and engage in eye contact. With a baby, you can create this opportunity while he or she is on the change table, floor, car seat, bouncy chair or on your thighs facing you.
Reading with your child everyday should start from birth. At this time, you can read anything to your son or daughter, even The New York Times. What matters is HOW you read it. Read with feeling, show emotion and pause to allow your baby to vocalize back to you.
Initially, choose books with a story and meaning. Vocabulary board books (e.g., books by Roger Priddy or select DK Publishing books) will be boring for you and not provide much benefit for your baby. Reading longer stories during the first months will help to build your child’s attention. Books like The Three Bears by Byron Barton, Summer by Alice Low and Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider will be fun for you and your baby.
If your toddler has trouble paying attention to a book, try reading when he or she is “trapped” (e.g., in the highchair eating, in the car seat while traveling, just waking up from a nap in the stroller). I once worked with a two year old boy who would only happily pay attention to an unfamiliar book while standing in his crib facing me. Once he became familiar with a book, we could read the book elsewhere.
Choosing the right books can help target speech and language skills you want to develop.
If your child is not talking, choose books that contain words that begin with bilabial sounds. These are sounds where your upper and lower lips come together (/m/, /b/ and /p/). Bilabial sounds are generally early sounds produced by children because they can see how an adult is moving their lips, which is helpful for imitation. Favorite books that include bilabial sounds are It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny (Marilyn Sadlow), The Berenstains’ B Book (Stanley and Jan Berenstain) and any book that contains animal sounds (moo, baa, maa). Overemphasize /m/, /b/ and /p/ and make eye contact with your child when saying bilabial sounds in any book.
Selecting books with repetitive phrases may allow your child to participate during story time. Great examples include: Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell), The Very Busy Spider (Eric Carle) and The Gingerbread Boy (Richard Egielski). Give your child the opportunity to complete the repetitive line, or if he or she is ready, the whole line. Hopefully, these words will carry over into daily vocabulary.
Rhyming books help children with word prediction, which is crucial for reading development. Once familiar with a rhyming book, have your child try to fill-in the rhyming word. Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book begins: Left foot, Left foot, Right foot, Right – Feet in the morning, Feet at _____ (child should say “night”).
If your child’s speech therapist has determined that understanding and using prepositions is an important goal for your child, use books to reinforce what occurs in therapy. Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, Up Above and Down Below by Sue Redding and Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse by Rick Walton are all loaded with prepositions.
A child with more developed language who has difficulty providing details and descriptions may benefit from “reading” wordless picture books to you. Pictures in the story should be described so that the story makes sense. You can use picture books with text, as long as the pictures are detailed themselves. (You may cover the text with your hand if your child can read.) This works best with Caldecott Medal / Honor Books. Excellent examples include Knuffle Bunny books (Mo Willems), No, David! (David Shannon) and Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak).
Other favorite wordless picture books include A Boy, a Dog and a Frog Series by Mercer Mayer, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola and The Jack Series by Pat Schories. If you feel your child leaves out important information, ask an open-ended question (e.g., “Ooo – What’s happening over here?”). Provide a description if you feel this is too challenging. Perhaps this will increase your child’s awareness to be more specific and when you sit down to read the book again, the new information will be included.
Sometimes it is helpful if you “read” a wordless picture book to your child first. Describe what you see or make-up the story-line. For example, when David, the main character in the book No, David! is about to fall off the chair while reaching for a cookie, you can say: “Be careful David, you’re going to get hurt!” or “No cookies before dinner!!”
Look for Part Two Coming Soon: Encouraging Speech and Language Skills while Sharing Books with a Group of Children
This article was written by Stephanie Sigal M.A. CCC-SLP. It appeared today on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) blog, ASHAsphere.
Wordless picture books are an essential part of a speech therapists bag of tricks. Please read my previous blog entry about encouraging details in conversation for background information.
I recently began using the “Jack” books by Pat Schories with 3 and 4 year-old children. They are great for addressing vocabulary, grammar, word finding, sentence building, describing scenes and feelings and predicting what will happen next.
These books are also an excellent tool to bridge the gap in articulation therapy between sentence level and conversation. Sometimes a child can say a target sound (e.g., “S”) in sentences, but can not say the sound correctly in conversational speech. Wordless picture books are an in-between step because children will describe the scenes with consecutive sentences using the picture scenes for support.
While the Jack books do not need to be read in any particular order, the following order works nicely:
Children learn and become excited about the characters in Jack’s life that appear in at least two books each in the series – the boy, his sister and the night visitors! It is fun to search the detailed pictures and the search helps with visual scanning too.
Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech language therapist practicing on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC. She works with babies, toddlers and school age children with expressive language delay and articulation disorders. Stephanie provides home based speech therapy and encourages parents to facilitate their children’s speech and language skills. To learn more about Stephanie, please visit http://sayandplayfamily.com/.
Encourage your child’s first words through simple songs!
Fingerplay or hand movements incorporated during a song allows for visual movement and sometimes enhances meaning of a song. Presenting hand movements near your face, but not in front of your mouth brings attention to your mouth. This will help your son or daughter attend and observe how you are moving your lips to form words.
Singing predictable, repetitive, rhyming songs are optimal. Pausing may help your child anticipate that it is his / her turn to “converse”. Allow time for your child to attempt to say the target word, but not too much time that you lose his or her attention.
Below are fantastic fingerplay songs. Lyrics can be found on the internet. This website offers lyrics and lists the specific fingerplay movements. Sing slowly!
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
The Wheels on the Bus
If You’re Happy and You Know It
Row, Row, Row your Boat
This Old Man
This Little Piggy Went to Market
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
I’m a Little Teapot
Open, Shut Them
Two Little Blackbirds
Where is Thumbkin?
We’re Going to Kentucky (We’re going to the fair)
Ring Around the Rosie
Always sing face to face.
If your child is too young or has difficulty imitating your fingerplay movements, move your child’s hands and body to mimic the movements of the song.
Sing fingerplay songs throughout the day. When you are dressing your child, changing a diaper and mealtime are great opportunities.
Stephanie Sigal is a speech therapist who helps babies and toddlers with language delay. Stephanie provides parents with tools to help their children thrive. Stephanie visits children in their Upper East Side of Manhattan homes. If you have questions about your child’s language development, please contact Stephanie at email@example.com or 646-295-4473.
In the August 18, 2010 New York Times article Looking for Baby Sitters: Foreign Language a Must, by Jenny Anderson, we learn Dr. Ellen Bialystok, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, has found bilingualism may help with cognitive development, but “It doesn’t make kids smarter”.
Highlights of the article include:
More information on bilingualism and language delay can be found here.
My toddler has three words: Mommy, Daddy and “this”. How can I help her be more verbal?
Parents often report to me that their child uses the word “this” in their limited vocabulary. These children may walk around their apartment consistently saying “this, this, this” or an approximation of the word: ”dis, dis dis”.
When a toddler wants something and she gestures or points towards the item (and maybe grunts too), parents often respond, “Which do you want – this or this?” or “Oh, you want this – Here you go!”
There is a better way to communicate with your child. Provide more effective models!
You already have your child’s attention, so take the opportunity to provide her with the actual word of the item she wants (e.g., “cookie”) instead of “this”.
If you’re not sure which item she was pointing to, offer her a choice: “Do you want a cookie or a cracker?”
Hold the object up toward your mouth, but not in front of your face so she can observe the movements of your mouth while you say the word.
Maybe not the next time, but soon after, you may find your child asks for “cookie!”
When she says “cookie,” expand her thought: “Yummy Cookie! MMMMM!”
Don’t feel obligated to keep rewarding your child with cookies every time she says the word.
I provide private pediatric speech therapy in Manhattan on the Upper East Side in children’s homes. You can contact me, Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP, at firstname.lastname@example.org / 646-295-4473.
Children develop language skills at their own pace, and there is a wide range of normal development. For example, it is considered normal to have two 18 month old toddlers, one of whom says 9 words and another who says 50. This is similar to how children develop skills to crawl, walk and read. Also, at 18 months, you should notice that your child is talking more than using gestures.
Two-word utterances should start to emerge just before age 2, and should become consistent at the 2 year mark. By this time, children should have at least a 50 word vocabulary and always be using new words.
Between 2 and 3 years old, sentence length should increase and you should notice more of a variety of words (verbs, pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc.).
If you notice your child has difficulty answering questions, “finding” words, following directions, or repeats what others say, it is appropriate to seek out a speech therapist for a speech – language evaluation.
Sometimes pediatricians don’t know your child as you do, and to calm your fears and possibly help your child’s progress, it is advisable to seek out a speech and language evaluation with a licensed, ASHA certified speech-language pathologist.
If you live on the Upper East Side of New York City, please contact Stephanie Sigal, speech therapist, at email@example.com or 646-295-4473 for an appointment.
Rhyming is an early phonological awareness (listening) skill children use to distinguish units of speech. Recognizing rhymes is crucial to reading development.
Understanding how we have syllables within words and the ability to discern phonemes (sounds) in syllables are also phonological awareness skills that facilitate literacy.
If you would like to encourage your child’s rhyming skills, here are some fun activities to practice:
Motown – I Heard It Through The Grapevine, My Girl, Good Lovin’, Joy To The World, The Tracks Of My Tears, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, I Want You Back, ABC
Barenaked Ladies and James Taylor have many songs with rhyming lyrics.
70′s – Celebration (Kool & The Gang), We Are Family (Sister Sledge), I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), Y.M.C.A. (VIllage People), Takin’ Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (Paul Simon)
80′s – Who Can It Be Now (Men At Work), 867-5309 / Jenny (Tommy Tutone), Mr. Roboto (STYX), Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and The Waves), Manic Monday (The Bangles)
90′s – Good Riddance / Time of Your Life (Green Day), Hairspray Soundtrack
Hip Hop is great for rhyming, but the lyrics are not always appropriate, try: Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It (Will Smith).
Read how Pediatrician Perri Klass, M.D., discusses how difficult determining a language delay in toddlers can be in The New York Times article When to Worry if a Child Has Too Few Words published February 8, 2010.
To be more specific with details and descriptions, encourage your son to “read” wordless picture books to you. You can also use picture books with text, as long as the pictures are detailed / expressive themselves. This works best with Caldecott Medal / Honor Books. These books won the Caldecott Award because a child who can not read, can tell the story on his own, just by looking at the pictures. Caldecott books can be found at your local library or where children’s books are sold. Try: Books of Wonder or the Bank Street Bookstore in Manhattan.
Stephanie is a speech therapist in NYC.
What Are Some Board Games You Recommend For Preschoolers?
While pretend play is extremely important for your two year old, it is also a great time to introduce board games. Games can enhance attention, concentration, turn taking, sharing, following directions and having fun!
Let’s Talk, Children and Bilingualism. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2003.
Floortime or the D.I.R. (Developmental, Individual, Relationship-Based) Model is a technique that helps children learn language and social skills in a more related and logical way than traditional language therapy. Traditional language therapy typically encourages specific skills (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) that may leave a child with rote responses.
Parents are an integral part of the Floortime model. Parents are taught how to use Floortime techniques by a Floortime trained therapist. While following their child’s lead, parents help their child learn during daily activities and play.
For more information, or to find a Floortime therapist in your area, please visit The Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders (ICDL).
Should my child have a hearing test?
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language skills, you should have his or her hearing tested in a sound proof booth with a licensed audiologist before pursuing speech therapy.
In my phone interview, I always ask parents: “Has your child ever had a hearing test in a sound proof booth?” I always get one of three responses:
1. “He had his hearing tested at birth and he passed.” This is a misconception because that was a hearing screening (not a test) and it only screened your child’s hearing at THAT time.
2. “The pediatrician gave him a hearing test and he’s fine.” Again, this was a screening, not a complete hearing test in a sound proof booth with a licensed audiologist.
3. “He can hear everything, I’m not concerned.” I’m sure he can hear, but he may have difficulty, for example, hearing high frequency sounds such as S and F, which could make it difficult for him to produce these sounds accurately, or understand certain words in rapid conversational speech, especially in a classroom setting.
To determine if your child can hear accurately, have him or her complete an audiological exam.
Below are Pediatric Otolaryngologists (Ear, Nose and Throat / ENT physicians) that have licensed audiologists available to test your child’s hearing. At some of these offices you will meet with the physician and the audiologist for a thorough exam:
1175 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10128
1175 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10128
530 First Avenue, 3C
New York, NY 10016
428 East 72nd Street
OxfordBuilding, Suite 100
New York, NY 10021
16 East 60th Street
364 East 69th Street
New York, NY 10021
Another option is to only see an audiologist:
Steven Saunders, PhD
211 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024-6020
Michelle Kraskin Au.D., CCC-A
Department of Otorhinolaryngology
Hearing and Speech Services
1305 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021