My daughter loves books. She loves checking out library books. She asks me to read to her about 3 billion times each day. She will sit and flip through book pages while narrating in toddler babble that only she can understand.
I love reading to my daughter. I love making up new voices, sound effects, and hand motions to make each story more interesting and interactive. I love how this incredibly on-the-go toddler will sit still and even cuddle with me as I read to her. I love how reading is a huge part of our lives every single day.
I know exactly when I learned to be a good read-aloud entertainer. It was the spring of 2005- when I was student teaching at the completion of my undergrad degree in Special Ed from Texas A&M- whoop! I had a mentor teacher who was the BEST at reading stories to her students. She taught elementary school resource and she made reading FUN for these kids who had struggled to read in schools for so long.
My mentor teacher did great voices for characters and taught me that it’s about inflection, not actual ability to imitate characters. We are not SNL performers, here. But what she really encouraged me to do was be SILLY with the books. Make the students smile and laugh.
She helped me choose a good book to start on- it was something about a pirate. Then she had me practice at home. She had me practice in front of a mirror to see my facial expressions and learn to be more animated. Then, she gave me the best confidence booster of all- she let me read to the students without any grown ups in the room. She was listening right outside the door, I’m sure, but she let me believe that there was no one to be embarrassed in front of, just kids who were enjoying a good book.
Fast forward about 5 more years to my first summer working at an ABA therapy center. I led a preschool program with an incredible behavior therapist name Luisa. This woman is the bomb.com. We were in over our heads and learned everything the hard way together. But we loved to read to our little guys. (We had 6 little boys in our class that summer).
Luisa and I can still recite “Go Dog Go” with coordinating hand motions and sound effects for every single page. We made every page interactive, requiring motor imitation, verbal imitation, or the like from each student before proceeding. We used hierarchies of prompting to help them be successful at this until some could use intraverbals during read alouds and others could imitate unprompted. We did a lot of things with those kiddos that summer that I know were good ABA techniques. But what sticks in my head is how much they learned through our daily book readings.
Fast forward 5+ more years to today. My daughter is expected to use hand motions, intraverbals, and tacting while reading books with me daily. Poor kid doesn’t just get to sit and listen to a book. But oh, how much progress she’s made!
Making books interactive and fun has taught her several early learning and learning to learn skills. Most importantly to me, her mom, it’s given her a love of reading and books already. She’s not even 2 yet. That’s a proud mom moment.
Fingers crossed it sticks. :)
Leanne Page, MEd, BCBA