Increasing language skills in kids is typically the primary goal of an ABA program. When increasing language skills, it’s important to use natural environment teaching through a variety of fun activities. Reading interactive books with lots of pictures is one of those activities. Today I’m going to demonstrate how to increase language skills in kids through reading fun books.
I love reading books with kids. It’s probably my most favorite way of teaching language in a very natural environment and just in a very less structured and fun way. When you are looking at books for your students, find some that are really colorful. Most kids love really colorful blocks. Sloths are in right now, so in my examples that’s what I’ll refer to.
Prepare How You’ll Read to Increase Language
When I look at these books, I don’t read word for word. I find that if I read word for word with a lot of the kids I work with, I lose them. So I’ll look at the book for a good 5-10 minutes just to imagine the way I would look at this with the students.
You want to establish your goal before you start the book. It could be about counting, colors, or verbs. If you want to work on all three and the student can sit for it and has language, amazing. Otherwise, work on one thing. As you point things out, give the student a moment to point out the next one. Don’t ask a bunch of questions.
I find if you read these books over and over again, your students will start to fill in some of the blanks as they get more familiar with the curriculum. I typically tend to read the same book 5 to 10 times and then rotate them through so that you know they’re not seeing the same book over and over and over again. I like to read the same book so that they can get that experience and start to predict what’s coming next. And then you can expand on that language.
I also use the one up rule. When you’re teaching language, the one up rule is if they give you one word, you model back with two. So if they say sloth, you can say blue sloth. If they say orange sloth, you can say orange, soft, sleeping. So you’re giving them one more word each time just to model it.
Increasing Language in Kids Through Reading
If I have a student who is learning and just starting out, I’m probably going to read through a book really quickly. I want to teach the student that they should be reading a book from beginning to end. But reading is subjective. I would point out different pictures and just act really excited about the book. I might say, “look at these fun sloths! I see a blue one, and oh, my goodness, I see a green one.” Your goal is really getting the student to sit.
If you’ve got a student who is sitting for a little bit longer, you can make this book very interactive. One of the major mistakes that I’ve seen with some people who are trying to teach language is just asking a bunch of questions. For instance, they might say, “What color is this sloth? Where is this sloth? Look! What’s this sloth doing?” I call these the mother nagging questions. Most kids when they hear all those questions just want to leave.
Reading books shouldn’t be a series of demands. It should be fun. So instead of all of those questions, I would say, “Hey, look at the blue sloth.” I would make lots of comments and point out certain things. “Look, this one’s smelling a flower. I see a watering can.”
For kids without much language, I might keep it even simpler, “look, I see spots. Let’s touch.” Then I might turn the page and go “look, swimming. Look, smelling.”
So we’ve gone through a lot today about increasing language in kids through reading books. But really the biggest thing would be when you’re reading books, you’re not really reading the script. Don’t stick to the script in these books. Make it fun, make it as interactive as possible. Make comments instead of asking questions. If you’re stuck and your child’s starting to lose interest or doesn’t have much interest to begin with, read really fast, finish the book and be all done.
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