learning to read with Mom
How to Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language at Any Age

Stephanie S. Pauls, M.Ed., M.S., CCC-SLP/L

It is never too late to help your child cultivate language. However, in the times in which we live, life is busy and it has become increasingly difficult to fit “it all” in. The good news is this: helping your child to cultivate these skills can take place anywhere (the car, grocery store or anytime that you have idle wait-time, etc).

The most fundamental skill comes down to this: vocabulary. The more words your child is exposed to and knows the better! You can help your child to become exposed to these words by reading or having your child read to you. If you feel there is a word that your child is not familiar with, take the time to define that word and give examples of its meaning or use it in a sentence. Exposure to new words and ideas in a context that is meaningful to your child will help him make connections and remember this word or idea.

When your child is reading a story (or you are reading a story to your child), use these stories to develop her language, thinking and reading skills. Some ideas to help encourage these skills are listed below:

  • Ask Questions- Use those who, what, when, where and why’s to ask about the characters and events that took place in the story. This is a good model to show your child how to formulate questions and will encourage your child to ask questions to seek needed information and gain knowledge.
  • Predict the Outcome of the Story- Ask your child to guess what will happen at various times throughout the story. Why do they think that will happen? Can they guess how it will end?
  • Retell the Story- After the story (or chapter) , have your child re-tell it (or give a brief summary for older children) in sequence. Encourage your child to give details. Ask if they would change the ending and if so, what would it be.
  • For young children not yet reading , have them create their own picture book, by drawing. They can then, “read” their story to you and you can use the above suggestions.
  • Word of the Day- Introduce a vocabulary word of the day and see who can get the most points by using the word correctly during that day.
  • My last suggestion and one of my personal favorites is “Interactive Conversations”. In the busy, technology-laden, society in which we live it may seem that special effort is reqiured.

Have open ended conversations with your children. Real, honest to goodness, take your time kind of conversations that will not elicit the typical “uh-huh”, “yes/no”, apathetic responses that we all generally see around the dinner table. Use these strategies: ask the questions, reflect upon the answers. Not only will you find out what is going on with your child, but really good conversation/vocabulary skills will take shape and you will be spending some quality time with your kids! You might even start some traditions, like this one in my house:

My 10 year-old daughter has taken on this role at our dinner table. When we are all seated, she starts out with “how was your day, Mom?” and then will ask me follow up questions about the answer. For example, if I said that my day was “busy”, she will then say something like “really, what are you doing at work that is taking up so much of your time?”… and so forth and then it spreads around the table —and sometimes the children will get really involved in the conversation and by accident forget to complain about dinner and will eat it without incident!

Good luck and happy talking!!