In full disclosure, we were provided a copy of Raising a Talker in exchange for our honest opinion. An affiliate link is included.
Let me begin with a strong recommendation for Raising a Talker by Renate Zangl, PhD as I sincerely wish I had it when I had my first child!
As the mother of a child with a speech delay (and another with no delay), I can truly appreciate the clear and straight forward explanations this book offers. While my son had an amazing speech therapist, she would often use words I am not familiar with which could have made me feel insecure. Instead of feeling embarrassed, however, I would ask definitions for these terms even though it was annoying. I mention this anecdote because Raising a Talker by Dr. Renate Zangl is written in a down to earth tone that makes the information easy to comprehend and offers many concise suggestions.
Raising a Talker is divided into specific time periods throughout the child’s first three years, and the last chapter is dedicated to early warning signs. Each chapter begins with a brief scientific background of what is happening with the baby at each age and how it impacts their ability to understand and communicate. I found these pages the most interesting because as moms we often know what is recommended to do, but not the “why” behind those actions. For example, in the first chapter it states that development research demonstrates that babies engage longer when listening to baby talk which is defined as “real words and real sentences spoken with a high pitch and sing-song melody.” We don’t talk to babies in silly tones because they are cute and adorable, but because it is the best way to encourage your child to communicate.
Following the how and why of what is happening with the child, is a general checklist, communication tips and activities which the book boasts over fifty of them. Since the book is broken down by age range (children develop at different paces so use the chapter that best reflects their ability), I would refer to the checklist as items to be mindful. The items on the checklist are ones I am familiar with since my child went through pediatric appointments and assessments to determine if there was a speech delay. It would have been great to have this checklist back then as often times some of these questions caught me off guard.
The Communication Tips are excellent, for example in the chapter “Nine Months and Up,” the author makes recommendations of what images and words the books you read your child should contain. I have always read to my children but I feel that I now have a better understanding of the different looks and styles of books that have been popular with my children. I will also review the Communication Tips provided on a regular basis just to be aware of strategies to incorporate in everyday communication with my child.
The activities provided in Raising a Talker are simple, diverse and child led. In each activity, the author has bullet points of the skills that will be fostered, materials needed, goals and easy to understand instructions. For some activities, there are additional variations offered, questions answered (i.e. you might be wondering, “Do I really have to look for that object I am talking about?) and things to look for during the interaction.
In the activity “Copy Me, Copy You!” in the chapter related to children twelve months and older, the author talks about how children mimic adults. While this is clearly understood by anyone who faces a two-year old handing them a toy phone, the author presents an exercise that focuses on engaging the toddler with familiar actions and objects and then how to vary this activity making it fun, silly and enabling the child to enhance their language skills. My favorite part is when the author answers why the parent should imitate the toddler, “Your imitations tell the toddler that he is doing something special because the adult is now doing the same thing. He feels validated because he is now the leader.”
With my children currently 2.5 and 3.5 years old, reading is big in our home, and I very much love the activity on Dialogic Reading. It is recommended that children are read to a half-hour every day which for some translates into reading the pages verbatim from the book. However, Dialogic Reading offers many techniques to bring reading and critical thinking skills to a new level. Again, the beauty of this book is that it focuses on the interaction between the parent and the child as the central catalyst for communication. I am so excited to incorporate this and the other activities into our lives!
Raising a Talker is a great book that includes observation guides and checklists as well as simple yet effective activities to incorporate based on the child’s age and ability. It also presents information for parents in a way that is not overwhelming. The book is a little over two hundred pages rich with information that will provide parents and educators with communication tools to help a child’s language develop. Although it is lengthy, it can be consumed in small bites.