Five ways to use books to encourage speech, language and communication for reluctant readers
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Five ways to use books to encourage speech, language and communication for reluctant readers

Reading can be a tricky skill to master for young people with speech, language, and communication difficulties, which may lead to reluctance in picking up a book. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use books to inspire and encourage them. It’s important to think outside of the box and take an innovative approach.

But before you do that, you need to identify why your child is averse to reading. There are many possibilities: is it that they have difficulties remembering what they’ve read; or perhaps they may have difficulties decoding the words, which is the ability to apply your knowledge between letters and sounds; or it might be that they are unable to understand the language used. Whatever the reason, it’s helpful to know. It’s only then that we can support their needs which may lead to greater enjoyment in reading.

A boy behind a pile of books on a table with hands in fists

Explore five ways in which we can encourage reluctant readers using books:

  1. Firstly, we could narrate what’s happening from the images and relate it to experiences that your child has had, which will make it more relevant. For example, when looking at a book with a cat in it, you could say “do you remember the time when grandma had a black cat sipping out of her glass of water?”.
  2. You could talk about what they think will happen next and make predictions. You could even make this into a game. Write your predictions on paper and see who is right.
  3. Draw images to identify the key parts of the story. You might want to create a story board together.
  4. Make a sensory experience, where your child can have a hands-on approach. See what you have at home, you don’t have to go out and buy materials. E.g., If the book is talking about a gravel path, you may have rice crispies; if it mentions the weather, you could spray water or have a torch for sunlight. Let your imagination do the work! This is also a great way to learn new vocabulary. In addition, you can also use a colour coded structure to support their expressive language (e.g., who? (the man) doing what? (is eating) to what? (an apple) how? (quickly) where? (in the park) when? (on Monday). Write out the different parts of the sentence with a picture for each part. So, your young person has a visual to learn from.
  5. Why not act out the story with family or friends? This really brings the story to life and allows your child to practise vital skills for attention and listening and social interaction such as turn-taking.

Make sure you use a book that is appropriate for the age and stage of your child’s development and adapt your activities accordingly.

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Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Explore the relationship between poor speech, language and communication and literacy skills

Explore the relationship between poor speech, language and communication and literacy skills

Communication skills are critical in all areas of communication throughout childhood and into adulthood. They are needed for understanding, narrating, making predictions and to develop social skills, for example in understanding everyday language or talking in the classroom or socialising with peers. Children with communication needs can experience low self-esteem, potential behavioural difficulties, lower school attendance and attainment.

Communication skills have a strong impact on literacy. Let’s look at some of the facts:

  • 50% of children with language delays also have challenges with literacy (Burns et al, 1999).
  • 73% of poor readers in year three had a history of difficulties with phonemic awareness (the ability to hear, identify and manipulate sounds) or spoken language in pre-school (Catts et al, 1999).
Speech Therpaist in London

The effect of expressive language on spelling and reading

The ability to read is very much dependent on competent language skills. Furthermore, a limited vocabulary will also have an impact on literacy skills. The more we know about a word, the easier it is to retrieve, recall, understand and use. So, if a young person has a poorer vocabulary, it’s likely that they will not have the same decoding skills as a peer with a richer set of vocabulary. By decoding we mean the ability to apply knowledge of letter-sound relationships including pronunciation of words. Decoding is a vital skill used in literacy.

Whilst learning to read is a key skill, it’s important to remember that a solid foundation is needed for success. We need to ensure that no steps are missed, otherwise there will be gaps in knowledge.

As your child moves further through the education system, they will be “reading to learn”. This is where young people with poorer language skills may show literacy difficulties (for example, reading comprehensions become more challenging, and their expressive language skills impact on their written abilities).

When should I seek advice or support?

Always seek the advice from a qualified professional such as a Speech and Language Therapist. You need appropriate advice for the age and stage of your child’s development and early intervention is of course key to success. It is never too late to ask for advice. The earlier you seek support, the better the outcome for your child in all areas (language, literacy, and emotional well-being).

Have you still got unanswered questions? Contact me here and we can have a look at your child’s phonemic awareness, auditory processing skills, verbal understanding and assess his/her ability and likelihood of reading and literacy struggles. If we find that your child has dyslexia I can refer on to a specialist colleague who can help you further.



Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.