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‘PRESENTS’ OF MIND

- Books Make Perfect Holiday Gift to Boost a Child’s Speech and Language Skills -

Turn a new page on the usual gift-giving ideas by wrapping up the printed word for children on your holiday shopping list.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit encourages local families to consider books as gifts for children this holiday season. Books that are interesting, engaging and age-appropriate can be a great way for families to spend quality time together with children while helping to improve a youngster’s speech and language skills.

“Reading books can be a great way to spend time together as a family, while helping improve children’s communication skills and nurturing a love for reading that will last a lifetime,” says Shelley Shaughnessy, a Family Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit.

In Ontario, it is estimated one in 10 preschool children has a communication delay. Reading with a child can head off potential problems, since an adult can share new words and meanings with a youngster. “Reading together helps stimulate speech and language skills that are critical to your children’s future success,” she adds.

The best bet when choosing a book this holiday season is to ensure it is age-appropriate. “In other words, the book is ideally geared to children, meaning they will want to pick it up and read,” Shaughnessy says.

For example, toddlers and pre-schoolers may prefer books with repetitive and rhyming text, as well as pictures and interactive features such as holes or flaps for lifting. For older children who are less inclined to read, books with exciting plots or ones that reflect their particular interests may be more likely to grab their attention.

Giving children the choice to pick his or her own book can also be an option, she adds. Gift certificates to a local bookstore can spur children to choose a book that they are more likely to read. If children are dreaming about high-tech gadgets this holiday season, families may want to consider an electronic book reader to fulfil gift expectations and encourage reading.

If costs are an obstacle to gift-giving, Shaughnessy suggests taking children to the local library over the holidays and getting him or her to sign up for a library card. “It can give them independence and ownership to what they want to read, as well as introduce them to a world of books that’s available at their fingertips,” she notes.

The District Preschool Speech and Language Programcan offer local families more resources on how to support children’s speech and language skills, as well as encourage reading. For additional information, call the HKPR District Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577 and speak to a Family Health Nurse.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Shelley Shaughnessy, Family Health Nurse, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100, or 1-866-888-4577.

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