6 Ways To Get The Very Most Out Of “Book Time” With Your Child

It is never too early to start reading to your child, even if you think they are too young to understand! Reading is crucial for a developing child’s language skills and academic success, and “Book Time” can be even more fun and engaging with these tips.

1. Read To Your Child Every Day
If you do only one thing on this list, let this be it. Even just a little reading each day goes a very long way towards your child’s language and literacy development. And that, in turn, will go a long way towards their academic success.

2. Use the Pictures
Pictures don’t just dress up the page, they are tools that aid your child’s comprehension by illustrating the concepts behind the words. Help your child make the connection between what you read and what they see – Ask questions about the pictures, have your child describe the images, and point out interesting details or colors.

3. Use Sounds and Gestures
The more you can do to make a book ‘multi-sensory,’ the more you contribute to your child’s comprehension. While pictures engage the eye, adding sounds and gestures to a story will help to lift it off the page. Verbs are especially fun to act out; when you come across one – like “sneeze” – have some fun letting out a loud “ACHOOO!” And don’t be surprised if your little one wants to join in, too.

4. Use What They Know
Another great way to make a book more “real” for your child is to connect the material to something they already know about. If the book features a horse, for example, you can ask: “Do you remember when we went to the farm? We saw a big, brown horse just like the one in the book!”

5. Use WH- Questions to Recap
Pause every once in a while to have your child to recall some of what you’ve read so far. After a page, a paragraph, or even a couple of sentences, prompt them with WH questions about specifics, like: “Who is the story about? What are they doing? Where is this story happening?” Flip back through the pages to help them out, if needed.

6. Use WH- Questions to Dig Deeper
As your child gets older, try asking questions that will allow them to practice forming opinions about what you’re reading. The focus here is not so much on recalling specific facts, but on assessing the information and making inferences from it. Again, use WH questions like: “Why did she go outside? What do you think she will do next? Why?”

In short: Read early and often, and provide lots of opportunities to “Engage With The Page!”

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Is My 3-Year-Old Speaking Normally?

During a child’s third year, speech and language skills are accelerating at a rapid pace, and social skills are emerging. The child can understand just under 1000 words, and will use basic grammatical structures such as pronouns and possessives. The child is also using short phrases and simple questions (more than tantrums) to communicate frustration or to seek information and attention. The child will also seek out friends to engage in more imaginative play.

The following are some key speech and language milestones that you can expect from a three-year-old child. Every child develops at a unique pace, though, and your own child may not have all of these skills. If you’re concerned that your child needs help meeting these milestones, make an appointment with a speech-language pathologist at WestField Speech Solutions to determine further action.


  • Understands about 900 words, and can quickly learn new words
  • Understands grammatical concepts such as prepositions (up, under), pronouns (him, us) and possessives (my, your)
  • Understands opposites (fast / slow), words for basic categories (foods, animals) and functions (drive, eat), and can answer basic questions about them (“Can you find an animal?” “Which of these foods do you like?”)
  • Can answer simple WH-questions (“Where is the dog? What is he doing?”)
  • Follows simple two-step directions (“Pick up the ball and put it away”)


  • Speaks in two- or three-word phrases, using approximately 500 words, including: Prepositions (out, behind), auxiliary verbs (“Sky is blue”) and past tense verbs (jumped) – though sometimes incorrectly (“I eated a snack.”)
  • Begins asking simple yes/no questions, and “Why?”
  • Speaks clearly 50-70% of the time, though will sometimes ‘stutter’ repetitively when excited (“It-it-it fast!”) Sounds used correctly in words include m, p, b, h, y, k, g, f, t, d, and n.
  • Starts talking about things that are not in view (toys at day care, a friend)

Social Language

  • While side-by-side (parallel) play is more common at age two, the three-year-old seeks out and prefers interactive, imaginative play with peers.
  • Will use eye contact with familiar people, and will often use it to show you things or get your attention.
  • Will rely less on temper tantrums, and more on words to express frustration. Also seeks information, clarification and makes observations.

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Is My 4-Year-Old Speaking Normally?

During child’s third and fourth years, speech and language skills continue developing at a rapid rate.

They have an easier time understanding less concrete concepts such as colors and shapes. Fully 70-80% of what a four-year-old says is understandable, though there will be some errors with their speech sounds and their grammar. The four-year-old also continues to develop social skills such as initiating conversations, and directing their remarks to specific people.

The following are some key speech and language milestones that you can expect from a child between three and four years of age. Every child develops at a unique pace, though, and your own child may not have all of these skills until the very end of this age range.

If you’re concerned that your child needs help meeting these milestones, make an appointment with a speech-language pathologist at WestField Speech Solutions to determine further action.


  • With an understanding of about 1200 words, can follow a simple plot in a children’s storybook.
  • Understands grammatical concepts such as prepositions (down, up, top, bottom) and pronouns (him, her, us, them.)
  • Understands words for basic colors and shapes, as well as the words used for relatives (grandpa, cousin) and negation (wasn’t, doesn’t, isn’t)
  • Responds when you call by name from another room


  • Uses about 800 words, including: Plurals (trucks, books); Pronouns (me, you, we); Contractions (don’t, can’t); Basic conjunctions (but) and present tense verbs (“He runs.”)
  • Uses an average of four words in a sentence, and four sentences at a time, with a few basic grammatical errors. Can talk about what happened during the day, and ask questions (often repetitively.)
  • Speaks clearly 70-80% of the time, with less frequent stutters. Words will generally sound correct, but there will still be mistakes with the more difficult speech sounds (such as s, l, r, j, v, and z.) and consonant blends (bl, fr, cr)
  • Starts using basic rhymes (me, see), and can use pictures to aid in telling simple stories.

Social Language

  • Initiates conversations, uses eye contact more consistently while talking, and will direct comments or observations to particular people.
  • Will engage in a single activity for 10-15 minutes on their own (generally involving motor-based play or building), but will also participate in activities with and imitate their peers.

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Is My 5-Year-Old Speaking Normally?

During a child’s fourth and fifth years, their speech and language skills continue developing at a rapid rate. They still understand more words than they actually use, but the ability to describe abstract concepts is increasing. While there may still be some difficult speech sounds to master, most of what a child this age says is understandable. Socially, the five-year-old child enjoys talking with others, and is learning to adjust their speech as the situation requires.

The following are some key speech and language milestones that you can expect from a child between four and five years of age. Every child develops at a unique pace, though, and your own child may not have all of these skills until the very end of this age range.

If you’re concerned that your child needs help meeting these milestones, make an appointment with a speech-language pathologist at WestField Speech Solutions to determine further action.


  • With an understanding of about 2500-2800 words, the child comprehends most of what is heard at home and school (including stories, conversations, and movies.)
  • Understands “sequence” words, such as those describing time (yesterday, today, tomorrow) and order (such as first, next, last)
  • Follows multi-step directions (such as “Change into your raincoat, put on your boots, and get an umbrella.”)
  • Follows classroom instructions (such as “Circle the picture of something that flies.”)


  • Uses about 1,500-2,000 words, including: Letters and numbers; common opposites; pronouns; verb tenses (past, present, future) and irregular nouns and verbs. Mistakes with the correct usage, however, are still common at this age (such as “He falled off the swing”)
  • Speaks clearly 80-90% of the time, but may still make mistakes with the more difficult speech sounds (such as s, l, r, sh, ch, th, j, v, and z.)
  • The child can use concrete items as prompts to make up short stories, or to describe how common objects are used. Language also emerges for less concrete uses, such as connecting ideas, recalling events, or wondering aloud.
  • Can repeat themselves in response to “What did you say?” and can repeat sentences that they’ve heard up to 10-12 syllables.

Social Language

  • Enjoys “chit chat,” and can keep a conversation going with others their age.
  • Starts to adjust their speech to the particular needs of a situation (such as using their “inside voice,” or using shorter sentences with toddlers)

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My Child Makes A Lot of Mistakes When Talking. Should I Worry?

Learning to speak is an extremely difficult undertaking for children, and they are naturally going to make mistakes along the way. Lots of mistakes!

Most children eventually drop the errors in their speech and develop typical speech patterns. Some even seem to get the knack fairly quickly, and are speaking like “little adults” at an early age. Other children, however, seem to have trouble long after friends their age are “speaking normally.”

The chart below gives some general guidelines for when you can expect a child to have mastered certain sounds.

We see that the “l” and “r” sounds, for example, are among some of the last to develop. Even though some younger children can start using these sounds quickly, we don’t expect them to fully master the “l” and “r” sounds until they are between five and seven years old.

This means that if your three-year-old is saying things like “New Yawk” (for New York) or “pway” (instead of play) or “yeh-yo” (instead of yellow), we can see that errors like these, involving the “l” or “r” sounds, are actually typical for age three.

But what if your child seems to be making a lot of these errors, should you be concerned? Maybe. Here are some other questions to consider:

Do friends or other family members have a hard time understanding your child?

Is your child frustrated because you don’t understand his/her speech?

Is your child unaware of the fact that people are having difficulty understanding them?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s time to seek a professional opinion. A certified Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) from WestField Speech Solutions can administer a standardized test that compares your child’s skills to other children his/her age. These test results, in addition to other information, will determine whether your child requires speech therapy.

Download a printable handout of this information

6 Online Learning Tips For Children With Speech-Language Disorders

by Ernest Roebuck, CCC-SLP

If you’re the parent of a child with a speech and language disorder, you may have found some especially unique challenges while adjusting to distance learning. Here’s how to help your child get the very most out of the experience.

Get Focused
Children with speech and language disorders may be more easily distracted—by other children on the screen, by noises or activities occurring in their own home, or by the technology itself. Consider the child’s work area, and factors such as comfortable seating, screen glare, and lighting. Find a quiet spot, away from noisy appliances and other people from inside or outside the house. Eliminate technology-based distractions by closing other applications, turning off alerts, and covering distracting parts of the screen (e.g., their own image or those of classmates) with sticky notes.

Get Understood
A child who stutters, or has trouble pronouncing certain sounds, may be harder to understand online. If this is a concern, make sure the teacher knows what supports your child needs, such as: Asking the child to repeat themselves, use different words, type it in the chat, draw it on a whiteboard, or use gestures.

Get Clarity
A child with a language disorder or social communication disorder may miss some cues that normally occur in person, and aid in comprehension (such as pointing to a page when reading.) Ask if the teacher can incorporate supports such as captioning, additional “wait time” to allow the child to process information, or rephrasing of messages if the child doesn’t seem to understand. You can also encourage your child to speak up if they didn’t understand—and even help develop a script for doing so (such as “I didn’t understand—could you please say it again?”)

Get Social
Children with language disorders and social communication disorders generally require lots of interaction with peers to improve social skills. Ask the teacher if it’s possible to use breakout rooms with smaller groups for some lessons, or to set up after-school virtual activities.
You can also organize phone calls and virtual play dates.

Get Moving
Screen fatigue is an issue for all children. But for those with speech and language disorders – who must put effort into communication under typical circumstances – the extra energy it takes to communicate virtually can make them especially susceptible to screen fatigue. Be sure to provide lots of opportunities for movement: alternate screen time with physical time when possible, or add a review of the day’s lessons with physical activity (such as practicing spelling during a walk around the block.)

Also, make room for “ramp-up time” if your child needs additional time to get ready to learn, or “cool-down time” to transition out of learning. Using a visual schedule to show the times for various tasks—and to highlight upcoming fun activities or breaks—can help.

Get Help
Parents of children with speech and language disorders have many challenges as they try to help their child with school. Be sure to talk to your teachers and to your speech-language pathologist about those challenges. Using video of some the challenging behaviors can aid professionals in offering feedback. You might also consider sharing your child’s communication needs with other parents, helpers or cooperative groups that share responsibilities with other families if you feel it’s safe.

“6 Online Learning Tips For Children With Speech-Language Disorders” is also available as a downloadable PDF handout

Ernest Roebuck, CCC-SLP is Executive Director of WestField Speech Solutions in Bedford, NY


What Is Selective Mutism?

Selective Mutism is a disorder that affects a child’s ability to speak in certain settings. For example, a child may be able to speak with family at home, but not at school. Selective Mutism does not occur because a child is shy or chooses not to speak — Instead, it is a type of communication disorder with social anxiety elements. Learn more about Selective Mutism and its diagnosis, associated behaviors and treatment in this handout.

Responding to Speech Sounds While Reading May Help Develop Babies’ Language


Reading to babies has long been linked to their early language development. But researchers from the University of Iowa may have found two interesting reasons why: Babies tend to make more speech sounds with books than they do with toys, and mothers are more responsive to those sounds.

In a study published in Language Learning and Development, lead author Julie Gros-Louis suggests that beyond simply reading with a child, parents can help develop language even further by interacting and responding to the sounds their children make during book time. The full article can be found here.

Big Vocabularies in 2-Year-Olds May Predict Kindergarten Success


The size of children’s oral vocabularies at age 2 may predict their eventual readiness for kindergarten according to a new joint study from Penn State, Columbia University and UCLA Irvine.

After analyzing the vocabularies of 8,650 2-year-old children around the United States, researchers followed up three years later to evaluate those children’s academic and behavioral skills. “Our findings provide compelling evidence for oral vocabulary’s theorized importance as a multi-faceted contributor to children’s early development,” says lead author Paul Morgan. The full study can be found here in the journal Child Development.

Ten Language Mistakes Kids Make That Are Actually Pretty Smart


The kinds of mistakes kids make when they are learning the language show that they actually know a lot more about the rules than we might think. The mistakes are evidence of very smart hypotheses the kids are forming from the limited data they’ve been given so far. Have a look at this fun article from Mental Floss magazine about 10 really smart language mistakes that kids make.