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Shared Book Reading – Benefits & Book Selection Tips

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Shared book reading is the act of ‘sharing or reading a book with your child’ (Noble et al., 2019). There are enormous benefits to reading books with your infants and children on a regular basis. These include but are not limited to:

  • Exposure to and greater retention of new vocabulary (Flack et al., 2018; Sigal, 2011).
  • Understanding the meaning of less familiar words using textual and visual clues (Wesseling et al., 2017)
  • Acquisition of new vocabulary that can be used in verbal communication (Sigal, 2011).
  • Improved grammar skills (Wesseling et al., 2017).
  • Commencing Kindergarten with a larger vocabulary and more success in reading than their age-related peers (Cates et al., 2017).
  • Increased opportunities to encourage bonding and build parent-child relationships (Colmar Brunton, 2012).
  • Improved emergent literacy skills including greater familiarity with letter formations (Wesseling et al., 2017) and improved print awareness (Reese & Cox, 1999).
  • Improved development of empathy skills and greater understanding of and ability to regulate own emotions (Aram et al., 2012).
  • Improved cognitive development (Raikes et al., 2006)

Parents and caregivers are advised in Paul & Russo’s recent article ‘How to Raise a Reader‘ to introduce their own childhood favourite books, as well as books that stand out to them in libraries, bookshops and the homes of family and friends.

Some other important considerations when picking books:

  • Engage your child in alphabet books as a focus point for introducing letters and sounds to your child (Lowry, 2016).
  • Select storybooks rather than alphabet books if your child has a language delay/disorder and use them as a basis for building on your child’s vocabulary, sentence construction, and story recall and comprehension skills (Lowry, 2016).
  • If your child is not talking, pick books with lots of bilabial sounds (i.e. ‘m’, ‘p’, and ‘b’ sounds). These sounds often appear in animal themed books with words like ‘moo’ and ‘baa’ (Sigal, 2011)
  • Picture books with vibrant, realistic photographs help build symbol recognition skills in younger children (Lowry, 2016)
  • Books that contain the element of surprise, often in the form of lift the flaps and exciting page turns; this facilitates a greater interest in reading (Paul & Russo, 2019)
  • Books that repeat new words and phrases help engage your child in the reading experience and cements their understanding of new vocabulary (Lowry, 2016; Sigal, 2011)
  • To help build your child’s pre-literacy skills including word prediction skills, introduce them to books with lots of rhyme, such as Dr Seuss’ classics (e.g. The Cat in The Hat) (Sigal, 2011).
  • If your child is attending speech pathology, select books that reinforce concepts taught in therapy, including prepositions, verbs and colours (e.g. ‘Where Is the Green Sheep’ by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek) (Book Share Time, 2019; Sigal, 2011).
  • Use paper books rather than electronic books for a more beneficial reading experience. A study by de Jong and Bus in 2002 found that children between the ages of 4-6 who read paper books were more likely to finish the book, follow the story in the correct order, read more words and recall more story content than those who read electronic books.
  • Introduce more interactive books containing sound effects, pops ups, flaps and moving parts if your child is a late talker or has a language delayed. These features can help engage them in the reading experience and build their verbal and non-verbal communication skills (Lowry, 2016).
  • Pick books with imaginary/fictional topics (e.g. pirates, princesses, dragons, goblins, fairies). This encourages conversation between child and parent.

Post written by Speech Pathologist, Remona Mekdessi Sarkis.