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Eva March, specialist teacher and former I CAN advisor, tells us how she uses I CAN’s Jake & Tizzy story books with her granddaughter.

Eva March previously worked as a Communication Advisor for I CAN and also worked as a specialist teacher. Here she tells us how she uses the Jake & Tizzy storybooks with her granddaughter.

One of the most enjoyable activities for me as a teacher working with children’s speech and language development was sharing books with very young children. Now as a Grandmother I am reminded again of that special time when I sit with my granddaughter and look through a book.

A new book is a new adventure, similar to opening a wrapped present; until the pages are turned, who knows what adventure or opportunities are inside! It’s certainly a chance to sit down and chat with your child as you explore the pages together. It is so much more than a lesson in learning to read; even the youngest baby will focus and look at books designed for newborn babies. As the baby develops into toddlerhood, books can be shared at any time of day as well as becoming a part of a bedtime routine that spells out to the child that is a quiet, special time before falling asleep.

I love sharing I CAN’s Jake & Tizzy books with my granddaughter and she really enjoys them, often asking me to read all eight in a row! At the back of each book are some Talking Tips which can enhance the way you share a book, and will support your child’s language development.

The Talking Tips are:

Look at the pictures together. Young children may not have the attention needed to let you read every word on every page, but looking at the pictures gives plenty of opportunities for you both to talk. You can help focus their attention by pointing to parts of the picture that you know will interest them.

Encourage your child to talk by letting them start the conversation. It doesn’t matter if you end up talking about something else; you can follow your child’s lead. If they seem reluctant to start the conversation you can point something out to them e.g. “I like Jake’s stripey t-shirt”. This may prompt the child to say something about the picture that they like.

Ask questions about the story. This isn’t time to test your child’s knowledge; it’s an opportunity for them to use their language in conversation. Rather than asking questions like “how many? Or “what colour” try and ask questions like “I wonder what’s going to happen next?” or “Do you think Jake likes pasta or yogurt best?”

Remember to talk about things your child is especially interested in. There are plenty of opportunities for this in the Jake & Tizzy books as they are all focused on activities and events that most children have experience of e.g. going to nursery, visiting relatives, birthdays etc. Children love being able to relate the stories to their own lives.

Never rush, remember to pause. Sharing a book should be a special time. By reading at a relaxed pace there is more opportunity for your child to start a conversation with you about the book.

As your child gets nearer to school age you can help them get ready for reading by pointing out that we call the words “print” and we always start them from left to right, and start at the top of the page. You can use your finger to point to the words as you go along. In the meantime, enjoy sharing books with your child – and be prepared they may want the same book over and over again!

To find out more about I CAN’s Jake & Tizzy story books and order your very own, visit I CAN’s shop here.