Christmas Prep Part 2: Book Sharing

Christmas is just around the corner! Are you ready? Is it even possible to be truly ready?!? Probably not for the mommies of the world, but hopefully by using the techniques we’ve been discussing, we’ll get your young child as ready as possible!

Last time we talked, I showed you techniques for selecting a commercially available Christmas book and re-writing it to meet your holiday teaching needs.  Today, we move on to strategies for maximizing the value of your book sharing time together.

Make the Moment Count

First, let’s talk about the context in which you’ll be reading the book. Ideally, this should be at a time when your child can be settled and minimally distracted. Easier said than done, I know, but knowing your child, you can probably identify one or two times of the day when he or she is “in the zone.” By “in the zone,” I mean that he or she is in just that perfect zone of emotional regulation when he/she is most ready to learn, not too overstimulated, not to understimulated, tired, or hungry. Just the perfect Goldilocks moment, if you will. Just right….ahh. If you know your child tends to be on the under-aroused side (“floppy,” or “zoned out,” enjoys crashing into things, sitting in laps, etc.), you might try first swinging, jumping on a trampoline, or engaging in a high affect tickle game. Do something to “rev” them up. If your child tends to be on the higher arousal side (easily distracted, frequently running around, seems “hyper”, etc.), you might try doing something to slow down the ol’ engine, such as rolling on an exercise ball, singing slow but engaging songs, turn down the lights, or rocking in a rocking chair. Your friendly family occupational therapist probably has even better ideas, but those are a few examples I’ve learned in my dealings with great OT’s through the years.

When you’ve found that perfect moment, sit down with your child on his or her level. In order to best encourage joint attention (a TRUE sharing of the moment), position yourself in front of the child, with the book facing them and between the two of you. (You’ll have to peek over the top of the book to read it.) Sitting in this way, you will best facilitate not only attention, but opportunities for eye contact, communication, and the child’s understanding of what you’re doing or saying.


 It’s Finally Time to Read the Book!

Rules of Thumb for Book Sharing:

  • Read the book during times when your child is relaxed and happy, when they are in a “good place” for quiet listening and calm reflection, when they are ready and able to learn.
  • Position yourself in front of the child with the book between you so that you can peek over the top at the words and at their face and they can look at the book and easily raise their eyes to you
  • Keep it simple!— simple language slightly beneath your child’s language level in order to allow them to focus on the new vocabulary and sharing the moment with you
  • Let them SEE it and HEAR the language—point to the picture you are talking about when you speak the vocabulary words
  • Read the book the SAME WAY every time—stick to the script! Gluing picture symbols onto the page, or simply writing notes for yourself will help you to remember what to say.
  • Skip over any pages in the book that are unnecessary to the vocabulary or concepts you want to focus on.
  • Speak slowly and pause frequently—this gives your child the chance to process, as well as the chance to talk about the pictures, if he’d like
  • Read the book at least 5 times before a “different” day or event

Repetition is key!

As I said before, the more you can read the book, the more likely the child is to learn the phrases and vocabulary that may help him understand “real life” happening around him during the holiday season. With repetition, you may even see your child beginning to try to participate in the book reading! Once you know the song, you kinda want to sing along!

Bring the Book to Life

I mean this both figuratively and literally. Speaking figuratively, make your book come to life by using the core vocabulary and repeated phrases from the book during your daily routine. Try to use the same verbiage when describing what you are doing and what you are going to do. Just as when you were reading, watch the quantity of your speech and keep it simple. Get down on your child’s physical level and show them visual references as much as you possibly can.

Literally speaking, if you are headed into a situation that you think your child may have difficulty interpreting, BRING YOUR BOOK. The holiday book you created may become your child’s guidebook when navigating unfamiliar territory. If you have the book with you, you will be able to bust it out at the moment of crisis and show them what is happening and what can be expected.

 Enjoy the magic moments this holiday season!

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