The Importance of Shared Story Book Reading for Young Children

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Posted on 20 March, 2014 by Eloise Wright
Shared story book reading is a highly effective parental tool that can support and enhance the development of young children’s language skills, particularly vocabulary and phonological awareness, which comprise important elements in successful reading and reading comprehension in the early school years and beyond.
Story book reading provides important opportunities for enriching children’s language through asking questions, making comments, and taking turns. Research shows that engaging children in conversations about the text enhances their vocabulary and alphabetic knowledge more so than simply reading the text; hence, story book reading must be accompanied by specific interactive techniques if it is to be effective as a language tool.
Here are some tips to help create valuable learning opportunities for your child during shared story book reading:
– Comment: Take note of what your child is interested in on the page, make a comment about it, and then wait for your child to respond.
– Ask questions: Ask questions at your child’s language level about what they are interested in on the page. For example, child is looking at a picture of a dog; adult says ‘Can you see the big doggie? What does he look like? How does he look different to our dog?’
– Respond by adding a little more: Expand, extend and recast your child’s response to provide more detail. For example, child says ‘He runned away’; adult replies ‘Yes, he ran away into the big, green forest.’
– Explain the meaning of new words: For example, adult explaining the word trapped: ‘Henry was trapped in the cave. This means he was stuck and had no way of getting out! Poor Henry.’
– Give your child time to respond: Allow your child the opportunity to take a turn before you provide your next comment.
The following are examples of specific questions to ask your child during shared story book reading that focus on developing literacy skills:
– Pick a page in the story and ask ‘What is (character) doing here?’
– Before turning the page, ask your child ‘What do you think will happen next?’
– At the end of the story, ask your child who the main characters were and where the story was set.
– At the end of the story, ask your child ‘What was your favourite part of the story? Why?’
– Ask your child to explain what happened at the end of the story.
Here are some tips to help develop your child’s print knowledge:
– Introduce the title of the story, and ask your child to point to the title
– Point to the print and explain its function. For example, ‘Here are the words that tell us what’s happening.’
– Point to each word separately and run your finger under the words as you read them
– When you read the story again, have your child point to each word in the title of the story
– Point to a familiar letter (such as one in your child’s name) and ask your child to identify the letter and produce its sound. Provide modelling and support where necessary; for example, ‘This is the letter ‘M’ for Mum. It makes the sound /mmm/. Can you find another ‘M’ on this page?’
In addition to promoting literacy, shared story book reading also serves as a natural context for discussing social-cognitive events, such as interpersonal relationships, character motives and behaviour, conflict resolution, and emotions. To promote children’s social cognition, try to highlight and discuss incidents representing differences in characters’ view points, as well as inner causes of characters’ behaviour. Try to also include conversation about your child’s own emotions and thoughts in addition to those of the characters.
So next time you’re reading a story with your child, try to incorporate a few of the above tips, as it is a simple and natural way to support and enhance the development of your child’s early language skills on a daily basis!

References:
Aram, D., Fine, Y., & Ziv, M. (2013). Enhancing parent-child shared book reading interactions:
Promoting references to the book’s plot and socio-cognitive themes. Early Childhood
Research Quarterly, 28(1), 111-122.
Kotaman, H. (2013). Impacts of dialogical storybook reading on young children’s reading
attitudes and vocabulary development. Reading Improvement, 50(4), 199-204.
Paul, R., & Norbury, C. F. (2012). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence:
Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Communicating (4th ed.). St. Louis, Missouri:
Elsevier Mosby.
Slaughter, V., Peterson, C. C., & Mackintosh, E. (2007). Mind what mother says: Narrative input
and theory of mind in typical children and those on the autism spectrum. Child
Development, 78, 839-859.
Whitehurst, G. J., & Lonigan, C. J. (2001). Emergent literacy: Development from prereaders to
readers. In S. B. Neuman & D. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research
(pp.11-30). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

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