7 pups pounce and 7 pups bounce

20120410-201424.jpgBenji’s coos are getting louder and louder, and his repertoire continues to increase. Between now and the next couple months he should start babbling. Meaning, he should start adding some consonants to his sound system (e.g., saying “bah-bah” and not just “ah”). These days, his crazy mom has been babbling lots to him using all the consonants in the English sound system. At times, I have also been babbling using Mandarin consonant sounds. When I do that, I notice Benji’s eyes attentively looking at my mouth, watching how it purses and releases, or how my tongue lifts and drops. It’s fascinating watching him watch me or his dad when we speak.

Reading has also become very much a routine in our household. No matter what we do, we try to read at least one book a day to him. Some days, I don’t even read the words in the book but just take a book and look at the pictures and describe them. At this age, it’s not so much the content; it’s more the act of reading. In fact, I also highly recommend picture books to parents because that gives parents the freedom to label the picture and even come up with an imaginative story themselves. (It’s also a great way to facilitate narrative skills in toddlers or pre-schoolers who cannot yet read.)

Language – speaking and listening – is the foundation for reading. A lot of parents don’t realize that, but a lot of kids who eventually go on to be good readers (except the ones who are diagnosed with dyslexia) have a good background in language. They know how to speak and understand and know how to manipulate sounds (e.g., do rhyme). That’s why when you look at speech development checklists from health nurses or pediatricians, they often ask if your child is babbling or using a variety of different sounds. This is a good speech and language development checklist I found for parents with infants or toddlers if you don’t already have one.

The first time I read a book to Benji, I’ll read the words. I use my finger to track the words I’m reading so he pays attention to the print. After that, I read the same book over with him for the next week or so (I usually have about 2 – 3 books in rotation during the week) and try other ways to explore and read to him from the same book. Here are some:

Labeling things in the book. When we read the same book again – and we do, many times over – I look for other things to talk about in the book. There are lots of other things to talk about: the color of the boy’s shirt, or the type of dog, etc. Repetition is a great way to help a child learn new words.

Playing silly word rhymes, e.g., when I see a page that says “7 pups pounce…” I go “and 7 pups bounce!” (even if they’re not part of the page) and “7 pups hounce,,,” Yes, “hounce” is not part of the English lexicon but it rhymes with pounce and bounce, and that is what I want to expose him to. Word games can be so fun and educational at the same time. Little kids especially from their toddler years LOVE them. Most little kids innately find silly rhymes funny (that’s why Dr Seuss books are such a hit!).

Using lots of action words when talking about the pictures in the books. E.g., “The puppies are pouncing!” “The puppies are rolling the colorful ball!” Nouns and action words are the first types of words that kids pick up, and it’s best to use the -ing version of the action word instead of just saying “He sits” say “He is sitting.” Developmentally, we want children to be able to use the “is + -ing” structure by around 2.5 years old (a lot of kids will developmentally say “He sitting” first and then progress to add the “is” in between). We also use slightly longer structures to extend the kid’s sentence structure, but not too long.

And as always, being animated and constantly moving because we know the little ones can’t sit still for too long.

Here are some other good websites to find suggestions on promoting literacy with your little one. Remember, language AND reading go complement each other. Read AND talk about the books with your little ones to get the best literary experience.

Make Reading First. Lots of suggestions on ways to read to your child.

Caring for kids. It also has a literacy milestone chart you can use for your child.

Zero to Three. An excellent article about the roots of literacy: language!

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9 comments
  1. hnMom said:

    Great tips and ideas, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • the speech monster said:

      you’re welcome! hope things with livi’s going okay this week! xx

      • hnMom said:

        Thanks for asking. We all ended up getting sick and are just now bouncing back. Should be a nice weekend though. 🙂

  2. This is fantastic info! Thank you for your link to a speech/language checklist. I have never seen one of these before.

    As far as using action words, I wasn’t aware to focus on using the -ing verbs. I’ll monitor my “teaching” today and see how I do. I’ll definitely have to change the way I speak if I’m not implenenting the -ing verbs throughout the day.

    I think it is so powerful for you to introduce Mandarin to Benji. We signed Oster up for French lessons (this is his third month of classes) and I’m hoping when he is 4 or 5 we can put him in Mandarin too. It’s interesting to see/hear people’s reactions when I mention language with infants. If I was a native French speaker I don’t think I would be questioned as much. I have had close friends laugh out loud when I told them about his lessons and even family members tell me that he doesn’t even speak English yet. That’s why I really don’t mention it unless it happens to come up. I know I’ll be writing about it soon (maybe when he starts talking), but for now I’m enjoying his classes and enforcing the language at home. Plus it keeps my mind structured so when I go back to work it won’t be a pile of mush 🙂

    I shared this link on my blog a couple months back http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/health/views/11klass.html
    It’s one of many articles that scientifically proves learning a second language is nothing but beneficial to the child.

    • the speech monster said:

      hey we do have a lot in common re our stance on educating the little ones. i’m *trying* my best to speak to Benji in Mandarin. ideally, i would’ve liked to have done a one parent one language method with him but unfortunately mandarin is my second language and it takes too much effort for me to keep switching languages so i just speak to him in mandarin whenever i remember.

      it’s great that you’re exposing oster to a second language and i remember reading that article last year. one of the benefits of learning a second language is honing of one’s metalinguistic skills. in fact, once he’s learned one language and another, picking up a third language should be a piece of cake compared to a monolingual child learning a second language at a later age. i get asked a lot by parents of kids with speech difficulties about whether or not to introduce or continue second language lessons…so i might write about that, too (the answer is too complex to try to word it out right now as i’m quickly replying this so i can go watch a movie..it’s date/movienight wiht my husband tonight). i would love to read about his classes and your posts about his speech and language development in both english and french.

      (ps my dream is for benji to also learn french…mostly out of vanity; asian kids who speak french are the cutest and oh, so sophisticated, imho.)

  3. hbslp said:

    This is a great post! We spent quite a bit of time in my birth-5 class in grad school talking about ways to facilitate early book awareness and preliteracy skills. Although it’s so intuitive for people in the SLP-field to encourage reading with kids looooong before they learn to read, it’s amazing how many parents don’t realize the value in doing this. This post would be a fantastic resource for many of these parents, since you use accessible language and give concrete ideas for what people can do during reading time with a baby! LOVE IT! Thank you for your wonderful ideas 🙂

    • the speech monster said:

      i’m glad you found it useful. trying to blog more about this stuff else my SLP brain turns rusty

  4. What a great post! Reading to our kids is so important!

    My husband’s father speaks Spanish. I encourage him to speak to Baby Eli in Spanish as much as possible. I want to introduce my son to that part of his heritage as well as the language. When I can find a class for his age, then we will sign him up for that as well.

    • the speech monster said:

      that’s great that you’re encouraging your father-in-law to speak to your kid in spanish. hopefully you can find a spanish class for him in the near future, too.

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