Many children with Down syndrome can learn to read! I look for a few pre-language skills when thinking about introducing books into a child’s routine. Babies who have developed an interest in faces and are beginning to interact socially may enjoy looking at pictures in a photo album or simple patterns in a book (like Sassy’s Look Book). When the baby is older (~9+ months) looking at books with simple photographs with one item per page and a simple font is suggested. I’ve found my local TJMaxx to have a wide variety of these kinds of books, like the Bright Baby books.
Starting to introduce books and print in the first year exposes children to pre-literacy skills such as page turning, holding a book upright, and print awareness. It is also a wonderful time to bond over a well-loved classic that you loved as a child like, Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown.
Here are some suggestions for reading books to children under two:
- Start with simple photo books with one picture per page
- Encourage a balance of showing (pointing and labeling pictures) and asking the child to show (What’s this?)
- Pick books with repeating lines – Eric Carle books are great at this… “but he was still hungry.”
- Turn the page just a bit and see if your child will help you finish
- Don’t be afraid to adapt the words. If your child is getting antsy, simplify the story or skip a few pages – it’s OK!
The best way to introduce books is by reading together – there will be time for programs and DVDs (I’ll post about this another day). For now, make reading a part of your family routine. If you enjoy it, chances are your child will too!
Reading to your young child with Down syndrome works on the following communication skills:
- Vocabulary enhancement
- Pre-literacy awareness
- Non-verbal expression (by developing a finger-point)
- Recognition of photos and print