Useful Tips for reading books to Special Needs Children
For children with special needs, book reading can seem boring and feel like a passive activity due to many reasons. Some children may have cognitive delays, speech and language delays, motor issues etc. which can lead them to lose interest in reading. This is one of the reasons why differently abled kids do not participate enough in book reading activities compared to their peers.
Here are five tips that parents or teachers can use to help facilitate participation during book reading time.
- Using Visuals or Manipulatives
Visuals can include pictures taken by you or found online that can help kids visualize a story better. For example, adding a picture of a caterpillar while reading out the story of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ might be good for kids. Similarly, adding manipulatives can make the story more real or concrete. Manipulatives include objects in the story that can aid storytelling. Avoid using too many manipulatives as they can distract or overwhelm kids. Use simple manipulatives that you can use throughout the story.
- Make it more interactive
While reading a picture book, ask questions according to your child’s level. For instance, if a child has cognitive challenges, they can be asked simple questions. If the child has trouble answering the questions, try giving them choices that will encourage them to participate. You can even ask yes or no questions by showing them the pages for the storybook. Give lots of positive reinforcement and celebrate their little successes. Don’t make it seem like a test – rather, try to make it a bonding and learning experience for both.
- Choose the right Books
Developmental age is not an appropriate indicator of the kind of books that are suitable for a child. Sometimes, a child is functioning cognitively at a 2 year old level but their chronological age is 10. In this case, choose a book for a 10 year old and adapt it to their needs. Give choices and ask your child what books they want to read. Motivate them and build their interest gradually for reading success.
- Use the right intonations and expressions
Various studies have shown that using expression during reading improves a child’s ability to comprehend the story better and answer questions more accurately about the story. It builds a child’s interest in the story and keeps him engaged throughout. This is especially true when you’re reading out an especially complex story with many characters of new words. Using the right intonations and expressions can help them understand a story better.
- Make it Relatable
Relating the story to a child’s experience can help them understand it better. For instance, when you’re reading “Betty Bunny Wants Everything”, try discussing their feelings when they’re shopping in a toy store. Ask questions such as if they felt like they wanted everything at the toy store. You can also try to visit a toy store and discuss the story. This is a carryover activity that can also help a child recall the story and work on sequencing and narrative skills.
There are several children’s books that are created for children with special needs. You can also try reading some of these books in case your child has a specific diagnosis. These tips can certainly improve participation by special needs kids during reading activities.