You’ve read the Fill the Page Theory. You know what a page is and you’re ready to start filling them, but where to begin? When you are just starting to fill pages there are good pages and there are bad pages – just like words. For example, the curse word your uncle accidentally blurted out at the last holiday gathering left a mark on a page you probably don’t want to fill. There are other pages to avoid as well, or at least pages that aren’t so important at the beginning of your child’s story. Here’s the three criteria you can use when evaluating what pages to fill to make sure your child’s story is off to a good start.
1) A good page is motivating to your child.
Without fail, when I ask a parent what word they’d like their child to be able to say, they tell me “thank you” (yes, even over “mommy” or “daddy”). I ask them to think about how motivated their child is to say a word, any word, after you’ve just handed them exactly what they want. They have to stop enjoying what you’ve just given them and focus on saying a word that is purely for someone else’s benefit. I know that “thank you” and showing appreciation is incredibly important, but not before kids even understand the power of words. A child who does not yet have solid language skills can’t be expected to halt an enjoyable activity to say a word that reaps them no immediate benefit.
Instead, a good page is for a word that your CHILD really wants to be able to say to get what they really want. Your child’s favorite toy, food item, or activity are all big motivators. Things like “ball”, “cookie”, or “go” are examples of great first pages. Those words teach your child the communication connection, meaning that when they talk and say words they get great things.
2) A good page is easy to fill with marks.
Your child could really love Disney. It could be his favorite thing on the planet and something you are sure he is really motivated to say, but unless you live in Orlando or Anaheim there are probably limited opportunities to really talk to your child about Disney and put marks on that page.
Remember, to fill a page and have your child say a word it takes many marks on the page (or experiences hearing that word), so you need to be able to easily provide that to your child on a daily basis. Words like “up”, “out”, “open”, “juice”, “milk”, and “shoes” are easy to repeat throughout the day and therefore easy to make many marks to fill each of those pages.
3) A good page is meaningful when used to communicate.
If your child has one word. One word. And it’s yellow. That’s not good. Picture her walking up to someone and saying, “Yellow”. That’s not going to get her very far. And certainly it’s not as good as saying, “Cookie”. That’d get her much more!
Yet we are so programmed as parents with all of the push-button-yellow-green-circle-triangle-C-F-H-in-your-face toys to teach our children academics. For short, I call them the dreaded SCLANS (shapes, colors, letters, AND numbers). Particularly when parents are worried about their child’s language development, they want to start to teach their child something, anything, and that seems to be the easiest thing to latch on to. Stores are overrun with toys geared toward SCLANS and it seems like our children will be failures if they don’t know all of their SCLANS by two!
But take a moment. Calm down and just remember, say no to SCLANS! At least until your child has a solid vocabulary and is really able to communicate their wants and needs. It’s not that SCLANS are bad. SCLANS are really good. But SCLANS are not meaningful. They will not help your child truly communicate. They are really just memorization, and SCLANs will come much easier to your child once they have a stronger foundation of language.
Now you’re ready to pick your pages. What page or pages have your decided to help your child start to fill?
Once you pick those pages, learning how to Talk Less, Talk Smart is an important skill and your last stop in the foundations of Little Stories.