Language Development

How to Use Books to Improve Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills in 2 Weeks or Less-Language Development

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Does your child have trouble expressing himself, or explaining what he’s learned in daycare or school?

This is a simple way to improve your child’s language development, and boost his expressive language skills. It doesn’t require any special materials, and teaches you how to make an activity you already do – reading to your child – into an activity that boosts your child’s expressive language skills.

After a week or two, you’ll see major improvement in your child’s ability to understand and think critically when reading a book.

Here’s what you do:

Days 1 -2: Teach your child to use the pictures to understand the story.

On the first 2 days you’ll be reading your child’s favorite book, but with a twist. First, ask your child to tell you the name of the book. That’s an easy one, of course. Next, have them show you where on the front cover it says the name of the book. If they don’t know, point it out, being particular to read and point to each word separately.

This teaches them important information about how to read a book, but they will also learn to recognize the words. Do the same thing with the name of the author. You can also show them that inside the book it says the name of the book, and the author.

As you go through the book, there are 2 types of questions you’ll be asking: questions about the pictures, or questions about what’s written. As you flip through the pages, ask your child to tell you a little bit about the pictures.

What does she think is happening? How does she know? Ask her to tell you what she sees in the picture makes her think that – a happy face, scary pictures, etc. Guide her through the pictures first, helping her to use the pictures to predict what the story will be about.

Days 3-4: Help your child notice words and think critically about what she hears.

As you go through the book, you are going to draw your child’s attention to two aspects of the text: the words themselves, and what is being said.

When you talk about the words themselves, you’ll point out things like whether one word rhymes with another, or you might explain what a new word means. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, the word mischief is introduced.

You can see if your child can guess what it means, referring her to the pictures as a clue, and then ask her if there was ever a time when she made mischief of one kind or another.

When you focus on what is actually being said, you’re looking at the bigger picture. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, you can ask your child, “Why did Max’s mother call him a wild thing? Why was he lonely? Did he really go to another place?”

You can also extend this even further, asking your child what they do if they feel like making mischief – how do they handle it? Do they sometimes feel lonely?

Of course you don’t need to do all of this at once. Take your time to introduce ideas as you go through the book several times, each time deepening the level of the questions you ask your child. Your child will have gained valuable thinking skills that are critical to being a good reader – all in the space of a few bedtime readings.

TIP: Check out this post to find out how you can use wordless picture books to improve your child's expressive language skills.

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  • Rachel Oct 8,2011 at 7:49 pm

    Sequencing would definitely help her. Reading is an input skill, while expressing yourself is an output skill, higher up on the ladder (developmentally) than reading. They’re really two different things, and so you could be good at reading and not at speaking.

    I would highly recommend doing a search on this site for “expressive language” or “sequencing” or “language development.” There are a bunch of activities that can help her that aren’t listed in my sidebar.

  • Laughwithusblog Oct 8,2011 at 2:39 am

    You know my oldest reads very well and still has trouble expressing herself. Her dad and I both get tongue tied easy. It must be hereditary. She does get really frustrated trying to tell me about her day. It all makes perfect sense in her head, but it comes our all jumbled up. I wonder if sequencing would help her at this point…

  • […] learning games are a great way of helping your child build his expressive language skills. Being able to express one’s self is a crucial skill that affects every aspect of your […]

  • […] are also great for improving your child’s critical thinking skills, and there’s now research that shows wordless picture books are great for improving your […]

  • Rachel Jul 26,2011 at 8:50 am

    My pleasure Kris – I love what I do 🙂

  • Kris Jul 25,2011 at 11:56 pm

    P.S. We posted your article on our facebook page. Thank you again!

  • Rachel Jul 25,2011 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks Kris for taking the time to share.
    I wish that more people understood that the only “right” way to learn is what works for you and your child. Sounds like you’re getting a handle on that. Best of luck to you, Kris.

  • Kris Jul 25,2011 at 8:30 pm

    Brilliance and simplicity combined! Thank you for teaching me, Rachel. I am a learning disabled adult (over 50!) I am not a parent; I am that “other” member of the family, an Uncle. Many is the time I’ve struggled to find the magic key to open the door to knowledge for a child, and you just reminded me I merely need to recall how it was for me, how I learned to grasp things. Thank you for taking time to write it all down, organize it, and put your blog together to share with us all.
    Best Regards,

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