September 8th was International Literacy Day, which highlights the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights for a more literate and sustainable society. Recent graduate and current Ridge Zeller employee Angela Mejia, M.S., CF-SLP writes about emergent literacy and supporting children’s development from an early age.
The Hard Work
As a school-based speech therapist, parents often ask me, “What can I do at home to support my child’s language development?” Across all grade levels, we are always working on narrative development, or the ability to tell/retell a story chronologically and with all of the important details. Many times though, my students demonstrate a reluctance to do the hard work it takes to enhance this skill. Even as adults, we are often reluctant to put in the necessary hard work!
Make Learning Fun
A fun approach to emergent literacy and narrative development is to implement “Picture Reads.” So what does that mean? It is the process of taking wordless picture books and “reading” them by audibly describing the images you see. As you do this, you should affirm and correctly repeat what your child says. In this way, you are able to expand and encourage their descriptive language.
Let’s look at the picture below as an example:
A child may simply say, “I see a dog.” But as a parent, you can elaborate with, “Yes! You see a dog wearing glasses and a shirt.”
You can encourage the child to go deeper into detail, for example:
- What color is the dog?
- What color is his shirt?
- Tell me what details you notice. (i.e., he is wearing a tie)
This can also lead into the discussion about whether this picture is a representation of something real or pretend (fiction or non-fiction). You can go even further by creating a narrative and using imaginative and descriptive speech:
- What setting is this dog in? (School? Office building?)
- What do you think he’s doing?
- Who is he as a character?
Tons of language can be produced from a simple picture, and you can even get into categorization, describing whole picture versus part of the picture, verbs and adjectives.
The Next Step
Once a child is comfortable with describing a picture, you can ask them to make up their own stories. Challenge them to make three different stories, and encourage that they use sequential or linking words such as “first,” “then” and last.” Ask wh-questions (who, what when, where and why) during their stories to expand on details, and eventually, talk about characters, setting, problems, and solutions as their narrative ability develops.
After your child’s skill level has grown, you can also invert the process. As a parent, create your own story from a picture that demonstrates sequence, climax and resolution. Then, ask your child how the picture support your story, i.e., “What do you see in the picture that relates to the story?”
For many of my students, a “picture read” is a fun first step to building successful language and literacy skills! If you’re interested in implementing emergent literacy with your child, here are some picture books that I recommend. You can also click each title to learn more:
- Wuffles by David Wiesner
- 10 minutes Till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
- A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
- A Boy, A Dog, and A Frog by Mercer Mayer
- Anno’s Journey by Misumaso Anno
- Beaver is Lost by Elisha Cooper
- Chalk by Bill Thomson
- Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
- Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
- Flotsam by David Wiesner
Angela Mejia, M.S., CF-SLP recently received her master’s degree from Northern Arizona University. She worked as an SLPA for Ridge Zeller while finishing her graduate program, and we’re proud to support her through her clinical fellowship year.