The Benefits of Story Time

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Why reading is important and how to make it part of your daily routine

Reading with your child is powerful. And finding ways to do this with your young child on the autism spectrum has direct impact on many things. Children gain considerable knowledge about written language from birth to age six, in the “Emergent Literacy stage.” By simply making books a part of your everyday routine, children develop important skills. We’re not talking anything fancy here, simply picking up a book, being seen reading and allowing the child to join in, looking at pictures, etc. develops literacy skills. You’d be surprised how rarely children see us reading actual books. And that has a direct impact on how they view the role of reading in their life.

So bring books and reading back into your daily routine.  For a young child, seeing print on the page, each letter, each word, hearing the words read out loud, observing the direction of the text, pictures, pages all add to your child’s literacy skills. And these fundamental skills launch your child into life long success in other aspects of their life.

Emergent literacy and children with disabilities continues to be studied and researched. Certain groups are at increased risk for reading and comprehension skills. They acquire necessary skills at a slower rate. Children with language impairment or delay, like those with autism, students from poverty, students with limited English and those children who have limited access to literacy materials are at risk.

So let’s get started on minimizing those risks by bringing Shared Storybook Reading into your home:

Read to your child throughout the day. At least two times each day, schedule story time. It is important to let your child know this is a shared activity, both child and parent must play active and equal parts. It is not your job as a parent to direct your child, make them sit in your lap to listen to a story that is read aloud word for word. Instead, draw your child in, give her a choice of two books, ask her to pick one, let her hold the book, have her turn the pages. You get the idea.

  • Take your child to the library, check out 20 books, keep them all in one place so they can be found and looked at often.
  • Have a reading spot which your child chooses and helps you set up.
  • While reading to your child, wait and breathe after each page to give your child time to look at the picture or comment on the reading. Let your child turn the page when he is ready.
  • Allow your child to hold the book.
  • Follow your child’s lead and change the story, your voice, the words and the rate of your reading.
  • Let your child read and praise them, even if they are not reading the correct words.

Get kids “into” books

Part of loving books is feeling like you’re a part of the action. So make that concrete for your child. Seek out books with interactive features built in. The library has shelves of Slot books, Lift-the-Tab books and Predictable books. My daughter loved Pop-Up books. Each of these books gives the child some control in pulling slots, lifting tabs, opening beautiful 3-D cut-outs or allowing the child to finish predictable sentences.

Still resisting story time?

It is important to give your child choices and some control. Story time shouldn’t be full of directions, corrections or consequences. Make it fun by letting go of your expectations. Stillness, quiet and complete attention are not required. Follow your child’s lead and when you arrive at his or her interests, engagement begins. Take time with the pictures, if that is what matters to your child. And don’t be afraid to make up stories apart from the book, ask open-ended questions and even act out what’s happening on the page.

Shared Storybook Reading is the perfect way to enjoy your child, create lasting memories and spark moments of true connection.

Data from TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp 8-13. Copyright 2002 CEC, was embedded into this post.

Author: Tammy

Tammy is a Director of Special Education, Autism Specialist, Behavior Specialist and parent. She is dedicated to helping families by sharing her expertise as it applies to everyday challenges. Read her full bio here.

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