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- Gift of the Printed Word Can Support the Development of a Child’s Speech and Language Skills -

They may seem old-fashioned, but books are a fantastic gift this holiday season that can open up new chapters for children.

That is the advice for parents and caregivers in the area who want an alternate holiday gift idea to the usual toys and electronic games for children. According to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, books are a great way for parents to spend time with children and boost their communication skills, which is a key part of healthy growth and development.

“By reading together, you build a bond with children and help them acquire a love of language that is critical for future success at school and in life,” says Shelley Shaughnessy, a Family Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit.

As children grow, “their brains are like sponges,” which means they are constantly learning from what goes on around them, she notes. Reading with children helps to stimulate speech and language skills, as adults help them learn new words and discuss their meanings. Visual attention, conversation skills and listening ability are also improved, she adds.

“Take the cue from your child when reading,” Shaughnessy adds. “If children flip back and forth all over the book, be patient. It shows they enjoy the book and want to concentrate on the parts that especially appeal to them. Another word of advice: show interest and enthusiasm when reading to children so the words on the page have appeal and hold their attention.”

Finding an age-appropriate book for a child is the most important step in encouraging reading. Books with repetitive and rhyming text, as well as plenty of pictures and interactive features such as holes or flaps for lifting, can be a hit with older toddlers and preschoolers.

For older children who are less inclined to read, choose a story with an exciting plot that will grab their attention and make them want to read. Girls may be more willing to read fictional ‘series’ books, or ones on subjects that mirror their own lives. Boys may be more likely to read non-fiction stories dealing with sports.

Purchasing a gift certificate to a local bookstore for your child is another way to encourage reading, Shaughnessy notes. “Giving children the option to choose their own books can make it more likely they will pick up on the gift idea and read,” she adds.

If children’s expectations this holiday season involve a high-tech gadget, parents might consider electronic book readers as an option. Alternately, a low-tech, no-cost idea may be a better fit. “Get your child a library card and open the door to a world of books, where new experiences await,” Shaughnessy adds.

The District Preschool Speech and Language Program can 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 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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