Read to me

13 March 2019

By: Shefali Shah

One of my lasting memories of the value of Auditory-Verbal Therapy for deaf children will be of toddlers tugging at their mothers’ clothes, urging them to read one more story.

Auditory-Verbal Therapy has always kept literacy central to its practice. “Creating readers starts with talking and reading to babies.”(Read On Get On, UK, 2016) Modern research consistently demonstrates that reading is the best predictor of academic success: put simply this means that children who have been read to from infancy, are more likely to sustain their interest in reading and therefore are most likely to sustain above average progress in college.

Read to me

Babies with hearing loss fitted appropriately with hearing aids enjoy being read to, just like a baby with normal hearing. Families have shared their initial frustration with me that reading to their deaf child presents the special challenge of him/her not being able to understand spoken language. Infants with normal hearing don’t understand everything that is read to them either. Their families persist and as the element of fun is preserved, the baby does understand. The baby learns. The same holds true for babies with hearing impairment.

Babies with hearing loss are ready to be read to as soon as they can sit up. For most, this is when they are approximately six months of age. Babies with additional difficulties who may not be able to support themselves, may need to be propped up as guided by the specialists who work with their families.

How to begin

1. Choose a happy, quiet time in the day to read to your baby. Snuggle up together with your baby in your lap, reading softly at your baby’s ear level, six inches away from the microphone of hearing aids and/or a foot away from the microphone of your baby’s sound processors.

2. It is important that your baby’s hearing devices (hearing aids or cochlear implants) are on all through this time, so that s/he is listening to as clear a speech signal as possible. You may want to ask your paediatric audiologist to guide you on how to use the accessories that allow your baby’s sound processor to pick up a clear signal when you read aloud.

3. Begin with large, colourful picture books, with one large picture to a page. As you talk, your baby is listening and looking directly at the corresponding picture. As your baby’s understanding grows you may want to graduate to 2-3 pictures to a page, pointing to the picture you are talking about, so as to guide baby’s gaze. E.g. Oh look at that balloon!

4. “Turn the page” is an excellent cue to hand over to your baby, so that s/he feels part of the book reading experience. Guide your baby if s/he doesn’t understand and the repetitive nature of the command, will help make it quickly understood.

5. Reading aloud is fun! If you find your baby’s attention wandering, it may be time to bring reading to a close and pick it up later in the day, again at a happy time. The session ends because you have chosen to end it; not because your baby threw a tantrum.

6. As you begin reading first stories, those with a simple, repetitive story line are very enjoyable as they help your child predict what will happen next. Stories by Rod Campbell are often favourites for this reason.

7. Hold the book picture-side facing you, as you describe what you see or as you tell the story and only then share the page with your baby by showing it to him or her. If you hand over the book to your baby or young child, the picture is visible, the charm has worn off and the incentive to listen and pay attention lost.

Reading is such a great way to spend time together, listening, learning and having fun!