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The Joy of Reading and Voice

By Maureen Penko

Reading opens up the world of infinite possibilities. Over the holidays the temperatures called for pulling out a book and getting lost in the world of mystery, intrigue, landscapes, adventure, and emotion.

The development of reading is fascinating to watch. As a speech- language pathologist and parent, observing a child develop language through looking, listening, thinking, speaking, writing and reading has been captivating. Exposure to hearing words, looking at pictures and attaching meaning to the word begins at birth. Engagement starts at the beginning of life as we hug, gaze, and coo to the infant. We place stimulating objects around the crib with pictures and colours. The building blocks for future reading begins in the first year of life. Reading out loud to your child from the time they are babies right up to adolescents, expands and enriches children's vocabulary. It models phrased fluent reading. It develops children's knowledge of written language (grammar), promotes oral language, introduces phrase in voice, pitch and intonation, and certainly develops visualization.

Visualization is a very important brain development that transports us to the certain place, a point in time, and for those athletes or musicians to the precision of their performance. This technique is one of many that builds comprehension. What is the meaning behind what we read? Parents of many three-year-old children, have been heard to say my child loves books and can read all the words. We know that some children with very strong visual memory skills can see a word, hear the word and memorize the word. However, the meaning of the word has not yet been established. When a child comprehends the word, they are able to create their own images and can point out when they hear the word said in a picture, in objects or be able to describe its meaning.

When we read with our expressive voice, our body language and language models serve to provide additional meaning for our child. It enables one to actually experience the word in all senses. The splish-splash, roar, crash and boom of the waves around our feet on a warm day, wraps you up in the smell, sound, and feel of that day. The emphasize and clarity in pronunciation of words builds speech skills.

For that baby, mum and dad's voice and coo draws them into the joy of the book and the bonding with a parent. As a toddler, the flap books and pull and push tabs enables experiences and looking for the character or the action. As a three-year-old it is sharing books together, learning new information, writing and colouring on a wash or wipe off book and following questions and instructions in books such as, 'Where is Spot?'. Between the ages of three to five, the love of books that take one into school continues. Most importantly, the trips to the library give the child the sense of doing something wonderful together with their parent.

The feel of the paper and turning the pages to see what comes next; hearing words in an audio file, seeing a book on an iPad are all dynamic ways to promote vocabulary. Words build on other words and soon concepts of all types come into play.

Our children with challenges, need to bathe in words, consistently with experience, movement and voice. The dynamic way to teach vocabulary gives the child the experience of the word and the power of its meaning when spoken. Arms UP in the air with an intonated UUUUP and attached to being picked up when mum or dad arrives gives that child the confidence to use that word.

Joint participation in books, role playing characters, singing a chorus line, and creation of personal story books, gives the child the confidence to communicate in different ways for different purposes with different people.

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