Modeling Helps Your Baby Develop a Taste for Books

by Babs Hadjusiewicz January 23, 2014


Focusing Talk™: Modeling the Purpose of all Reading


Reading aloud to children presents a “buffet” of language and knowledge that is full of all sorts of “tasty” words and ideas. One of the best ways to help children “taste” those morsels and then put them in their “pockets” is to use the language and ideas from familiar read-alouds as you converse and interact with children.

When children hear the words and ideas from a familiar read-aloud used in meaningful ways again and again, the sounds in the words become so familiar that children want to try out the words on their own tongues and use that language when they talk and interact with others.


It’s Natural!

Focusing Talk is a natural and easy way to engage children while building language experiences. Focusing Talk around familiar literature bridges “book talk” and “talk talk,” as it models for children how printed sounds and words can be used in other meaningful contexts. 


Prepares Children for Phonics

Modeled use of the language of literature illustrates for children how individual sounds fit together to make words––and how words combine to make phrases and sentences that have meaning. Modeled use of such language also shows children how words, and sometimes their meanings, change when endings, prefixes, or suffixes are added. 


Models Figurative Language

Focusing Talk allows for meaningful use of figurative language, an especially helpful experience for children who are learning English as a second language.


It’s Easy!

Focusing Talk around a familiar piece of literature allows you to “read aloud” anywhere, anytime. When conversation recalls a familiar poem, the effect is as though the selection itself has just been read aloud again.

That valuable bridging of “book talk” and “talk talk” occurs every time conversation includes quoted lines or entire passages from printed materials. 

Likewise, children experience the close relationship between oral language and written language when innovations on the book language personalize its words, or references to the literature call the selection's words and ideas to mind in a general way or through the use of similes and metaphors.


Here’s How -- Three Ways to Focus Talk

Focusing Talk models for children the very purpose of all reading––to take words right off the printed page and personalize them for use in everyday talking. Think about how that might happen in the following examples, in which talk is focused around the well-known favorite “Twinkle Twinkle”:


  • Quoting the Text

Quote a word, a phrase, a line, or the entire poem (or, in this case, sing it) to comment on a real or pictured star or nighttime sky. You might also say, “Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star!” to compliment a child's excellent performance, or sing, “How I wonder what you are!” to a costumed child. 


  • Innovating on the Text

Change the poem's words as appropriate to comment on a particular situation or experience. For example, you might say, “Twinkle, twinkle, big brown eyes” to note a child's eyes that are aglow with excitement or mirth. Similarly, you might say, “How I wonder where you are!” as you're searching for a lost item or when a child is playing hide-and-seek.


  • Referring to the Text

Refer to the poem to associate its words or ideas with a real or pictured star in a nighttime sky. Make a general reference to the poem: “There's a twinkling star high in the sky” or “I see a diamond that's twinkling.” Using a metaphor or simile based on the poem, describe a child as a “shining star” or say, “Your whole face is twinkling like a sky full of stars!”



Focusing Talk is a trademark of Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz.    

Copyright © 1999-2014 Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz

Babs Hadjusiewicz
Babs Hadjusiewicz


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