When the child is engaging in some activity, you can talk about it: "How nicely you are stringing those beads!" "It's time to put the toy engine in your toy box." "Alice wants another ride in your automobile." In this way the child associates the clearly spoken word with the object or action that is of immediate interest to him. This is a natural way to build a meaningful vocabulary.
When we are hurried and worried about many things, we cannot always reward the child by showing our interest or giving him a smile when he displays the characteristics that we want him to develop. But our interest is most important. Instead of being annoyed by his questions, we should commend his curiosity even though we cannot satisfy it. When he has taken initiative or shown resourcefulness, it does take thought, but very little time, to smile and say, "You did that all by yourself," or, "You found some-
118 HELPING YOUR CHILD IMPROVE HIS READING
thing interesting to do without my telling you." Children will repeat behavior that is approved by the persons they love.
If a child, for any of a number of reasons, is slow in his language development, the home can do more than the school to build his vocabulary and ability to communicate. Listening and speaking are both involved. We can give him directions to carry out: "Billy, please bring me my hat, my gloves, and my pocketbook." After reading him a story that he wanted to hear, encourage him to talk about it, or make another ending, or tell a story of his own. Let him play "waiter"—let him take your order and repeat it when he comes back: "Here is your chicken soup," "Did you enjoy the baked potato?" "Was ice cream the dessert you ordered?"
A toy telephone is an excellent means of encouraging correct and fluent speech. If the child mumbles, say, "Sorry, you'll have to speak more clearly. This is a very poor connection." Playing "radio announcer" also gives him an incentive to improve his oral speech.
Playing with children who speak clearly is even more effective. The other children will not try to understand the child who mumbles or talks incoherently. Consequently, they will not do what he wants. Often they will refuse to play with him.