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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