Teaching parents language strategies during shared book reading

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As early intervention SLPs, we know the importance of teaching parents to use language facilitation strategies (see the Heidlage & Roberts meta-analyses we discuss in the last bullet point, here). We also know the value of shared book reading as a context for language learning. These researchers decided to take a close look at the process of teaching parents to use naturalistic language strategies during book reading. To do this, they taught two mothers, one with a three-year-old with ASD and one with a 5-year-old with cerebral palsy, two sets of strategies.

The first set of strategies was engagement strategies for parents to use before, during, and after reading books.

  • Before book reading:

    • Say the title and author (e.g. “This book is called ____ and is written by ____.”)

    • Ask a question to build interest (e.g. “What do you think this book is about?”)

  • During book reading:

    • Make encouraging statements (e.g. “I like how you’re sitting so nicely with me!” “Good job turning the page.”)

    • Use nonverbal and verbal means to focus the child’s attention (e.g. point to a picture and say, “Look! It’s a gorilla!”)

  • After book reading:

    • Ask a closing question to maintain interest, or relate the book to the child’s life (e.g. “Which animal makes a funny sound, a cow or a sheep? Why? What sound does our dog make?”)

The second set of strategies was components of the intervention program Parent-Implemented Communication Strategies (PiCS) (Meadan et al. 2014).

  • Modeling: demonstrate a word, phrase, or gesture with the expectation that the child will imitate (e.g. “Turn the page”)

  • Mand–model: in addition to the model, use a verbal prompt in the form of a question (e.g. “What do you want?”), a choice (e.g. “Should we read the cat book or the tractor book?”), or a command (e.g. “Say ‘turn the page”).

  • Time delay: pause within an established routine to give the child an opportunity to initiate communication (e.g. label all of the pictures on a page except for one, point to the last picture, and look expectantly at the child for five seconds).

They taught parents these strategies via two initial teaching sessions followed by 12 weeks of twice-a-week coaching sessions. The two initial teaching sessions included reviewing the material, watching example videos, role-playing, and feedback. The coaching sessions used the following format:

  • The researcher reviewed the target strategy

  • The researcher provided feedback on the previous session using a video clip, giving direct positive and constructive feedback

  • The mother and child engaged together in shared storybook reading while the researcher observed

  • The mother reflected on her own use of the strategies, and the researcher provided suggestions and feedback. Together, they problem-solved any concerns or issues

The researchers found a connection between the mothers’ use of the PiCS strategies and the child’s communication, providing support for teaching parents to use the PiCS strategies during shared book reading. They also found that the hands-on practice/coaching component was key for the mothers to use the PiCS strategies successfully. Because we EI SLPs are already familiar with the strategies that were taught to the parents in this study, this is definitely something we can use in our sessions!

 

Akamoglu, Y., & Meadan, H. (2019). Parent-implemented communication strategies during storybook reading. Journal of Early Intervention. doi: 10.1177/1053815119855007.

Go long! Go deep! Storybook reading intervention to target breadth and depth of word knowledge in preschool-age children

One of the most fun and, quite honestly, easiest contexts that we can use in therapy with toddlers and preschoolers is shared book reading. And, it’s kind of a no brainer that we can and should be using interactive read alouds to target one of the key areas of language development that’s lacking in our 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old clients: receptive and expressive vocabulary*.

In this intervention study of 226 preschoolers, they found that:

  • Kids who had a high initial level of vocabulary knowledge were able to increase their understanding and use of words through exposure alone.

  • However, for kids with the weakest initial vocabulary levels, exposure and repetition isn’t enough.

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So what helps? Explicit instruction. Their explicit intervention activities included: pictures, clear child-friendly definitions, and being encouraged to act out, use, and explain target words. They found that in order to go beyond breadth (the number of words that you know) to depth (how much you know about a word), explicit instruction of word meaning and interactive activities that extend understanding beyond how the words are depicted in the book, helped. Ultimately, going long and going deep is key if we want to have a long-term impact on vocabulary development.

*This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed the topic of word learning during shared book reading. See this review, too.

 

Dickinson, D. K., Nesbitt, K. T., Collins, M. F., Hadley, E. B., Newman, K., Riveria, B. L., …Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2019). Teaching for breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge: Learning from explicit and implicit instruction and the storybook texts. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.07.012

Facilitating parent–child playgroups: A how-to guide

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Most of us early interventionists work with families one-on-one. But how great would it be to facilitate a parent/child playgroup? Not only could you work with multiple children at once, but you could also connect families going through similar experiences. Green et al. investigated a specific type of playgroup geared toward enhancing parent interaction in communication (referred to as EPIIC) playgroups.

The EPIIC playground was structured like a typical morning preschool session. They did a hello song, a play activity, story time, and snack. They also built in time to address each child’s individual IFSP goals. Each playgroup session had a different theme, such as “what makes me learn to love books” and “what makes me laugh.”

Instead of the teacher or SLP leading the group, the parents worked directly with their children while being coached by the SLP. For instance, the SLP might model a page or two of shared book-reading, and then let the parent take over. The SLP facilitates the session, while parents interact with their child, learn new strategies, and meet other parents in their same boat!

After seven playgroup sessions, all children demonstrated increased communication skills. All of the parents improved their use of communication strategies with their children. Informally, parents reported being very happy with the playgroup, and felt that they learned new strategies and gained knowledge. The EPIIC playgroup model seems like a pretty epic way to deliver evidence-based services to families. Get it?

For a specific breakdown of the playgroup schedule and a full list of the topics used, be sure to check out the original article here.

 

Green, K. B., Towson, J. A., Head, C., Janowski, B., & Smith, L. (2018). Facilitated playgroups to promote speech and language skills of young children with communication delays: A pilot study. Child Language and Teaching, 34(1) 37–52.

What, who, when, or how: What matters in shared book reading?

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We all know reading books with our kids and clients is wonderful for language development, but what about shared reading makes it so beneficial to learning vocabulary? This meta-analysis included 38 studies to determine what elements of shared book reading contribute to word learning in typically developing* children ages 33 months–12 years. Good news, shared book reading works! The authors found that children learned almost half of the words they were exposed to during shared reading, but some factors seemed to matter more than others. For example, more exposures to target words was better for word learning, and a dialogic reading style helped children learn 1.22 more words on average than non-dialogic styles. In other words, interactive reading styles with many opportunities to hear and use new words contribute to word learning. No surprise there! What was surprising is that it didn’t matter who read the book. Across studies, children did just as well on word learning measures after shared reading with their parents as they did with researchers or teachers. And the length of time between reading and testing did not affect word learning, so either immediacy wasn’t an important factor for these children, or they retained knowledge of the words they learned during reading. So, if you aren’t already, try incorporating story books into your sessions, and include dialogic reading as part of a home program or coaching session!

*Note: This meta-analysis only included studies on typically developing children, but there are studies out there on implementing therapy techniques into dialogic reading: try here and here for some ideas, and here for more on dialogic reading!

This review appears in both our Early Intervention and Preschool & School-Age sections this month!

Flack, Z. M., Field, A. P, & Horst, J. (2017). The effects of shared storybook reading on word learning: a meta-analysis. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/dev0000512.