I recently had a conversation about conversation. A parent reached out after reading the last few blogs. Here’s what he asked:
When I’m reading with my child, how can I have the kinds of “rich conversations” you talk about that build language skills?
So here’s an example of how you can use rich conversation during story time to build your child’s language skills. I used the well-loved children’s book, The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, with suggestions for your child from ages 6 months to 5 years.
6 months old – (Pointing at the cat on the cover) “What is that cat wearing on his head?? A hat! Do cats wear hats? That’s very silly. That hat has stripes on it, doesn’t it? Red/white/red/white/red/white. We see cats when we are out in the carriage. Do we see cats wearing hats?? No! Very silly.”
18-months old – (After page 2) “Huh. Look! What’s that in the house? A bicycle! What do you think about that? Do people ride bikes in the house? NO…! Riding bikes is an outdoor activity. (Follow up: “That’s a two-wheeler. To ride on two wheels you need to be able to balance the bike and not fall down. Little kids have bikes with 3 wheels so they don’t tip over–they are called tricycles.”)
2-years old – (On page 23) “Hey – How did that fish get into the pot? Let’s look and see where the pot came from… (Follow-up possibilities: What do you think was in that pot? Don’t fish need water? Do you think a fish could live in cold leftover tea?)
3-years old – (After page 11 when the fish talks for the first time) “Do you think that fish regularly talks to the kids? I’m wondering because to me the boy and girl don’t look that surprised to hear their fish talk. What do you think? (Follow up: “Do you think fish can talk to other fish? I wonder how they communicate…we should find out more about that.”)
4-years old – (After page 45) I just noticed that this is the first time the boy says anything – and the girl doesn’t talk at all! Huh. Why do you think he didn’t speak up earlier when crazy things were happening? (Follow up: How do you think the boy was feeling when all that chaos was going on? When do you think you would have said something to the Cat in the Hat?)
5-years old – (At the end of the book) “I sort of feel sorry for the Cat in the Hat. Do you? His intentions were good – he wanted to help the kids have some fun. It’s almost as if he really didn’t think about the consequences. I mean there is a HUGE mess in this house…do you think he noticed? (Follow-up: Do you think he always planned to clean the mess up?)