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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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