Six Effective Shared Book Reading Strategies to Support Early Language Development

As many as four in ten children in America never or seldom have had their parents read books to them. This can lead to educational gaps when children enter school, including dyslexia and difficulties with reading. Shared book reading helps children learn and speak new words. Are you following the most effective strategies to make shared book reading an engaging and fun learning experience for your child?

Early childhood education specialists say that making shared book reading an interactive experience for your kid, helps improve their language and literacy skills. For parents and early childhood teachers, collaborative listening and reading with children is an easy and fun way to learn and communicate new words and ideas.

Why is shared reading essential for language and literacy skill development?

Recent research shows that kids whose parents read one picture book every other month are exposed to an average of 5000 words by the time they are five years old. For parents who read about five children’s books per day, their kids are likely to be exposed to 1.5 million words by the time they are five!

The gap of over 1 million words between children raised in a shared reading environment and those who are infrequently or seldom exposed to shared reading is striking! The words kids hear from books are much more complex and challenging than words used in everyday communication. This is the key reason why reading or listening to books is important to building a child’s repository of words.

The quality of such a shared learning experience is as important as the frequency of interactions. That is, how often you engage with your child by reading together is as important as how effective it is in making a play session into a learning experience. The same goes for shared listening; quality is as important as frequency.

Six effective strategies to improve shared book reading

Experts say that the quality of shared book reading experiences depends on three factors: the adult’s ability to facilitate children’s skills and development, the quality of the social and emotional relationship between the caregiver and child, and the capacity of an adult to engage the child when reading.

Child psychology experts, Drs. Tessa Weadman, Tanya Serry, and Pamela Snow from La Trobe University in Australia have identified six shared book reading strategies to support your child’s early language development. These experts call it “extra-textual” conversation, or talking in addition to the text, that helps reinforce new vocabulary words that kids hear.

  1. Prompts

You can use many kinds of prompts to engage your child better while reading along with them. It is easy to remember these various prompts using the acronym CROWD – which refers to Completion, Recall, Open-ended, Wh-questions, and Distancing prompts.

When reading a book with rhymes, leave a blank at the end of a sentence and allow your child to complete it. Recall prompts, or asking what has happened so far in the story, can help a child understand a plot structure and sequence of events. It will help your kid learn the language structure that is critical for later reading.

Open-ended prompts work best that have pictures or detailed illustrations. Asking questions such as “Tell me the story in this picture?” helps increase a child’s attention to detail and increase their fluency. Wh-prompts ask the what, where, when, why, and how questions.

Distancing prompts is asking your kid to relate what they are reading to their recent real-life experience. For example, asking your kid to identify the animals in the book they recently saw on a Zoo trip will help them bridge the words they read with the real world.

  1. Highlight and repeat new words

Shared reading is an excellent way for your kid to learn and understand more complex words that you may not speak in everyday conversation. Highlighting new words, explaining the meaning of the word, and relating it to their daily experience are vital strategies to help your child get acquainted and become a mini-expert in using new words.

If you make new words sound like you are having fun, your child will follow you around, saying the word again and again. Children have a natural affinity to novelty, and new words are a sure way to help them discover the world. You will be surprised how quickly and often a new word can catch their fascination!

  1. Respond with acknowledgment and encouragement

Respond with a comment, imitation, acknowledgment, command, and other statements. As you and your child get comfortable, allow them to speak more often. And don’t forget to praise your kid for their response! Encouragement, praise and excitement are crucial to supporting children’s engagement during shared book reading. Such compliments can also help manage behavior and direct attention.

Being responsive to your child’s questions will help them reciprocate when it is your turn to test your kid about the story! Such interactive shared book reading experience creates a positive home learning environment.

  1. Help kindle a love for the printed word

Print knowledge is a child’s understanding of the function and features of written language. Pre-schoolers need guidance to shift focus from pictures to text. Using prompts such as “Do you know this word?” “That’s a letter J,” and “Point me to the letter or word on the page” will help develop your kid’s knowledge about written language. Use nonverbal references such as pointing to the words on the page and moving a finger along the text when reading to help your child develop a love for the printed text.

  1. Learn the sound of speech

Learning to say or sing aloud a word helps increase a child’s awareness about the beauty of words and language. Children learn about rhyming, syllables, alliteration and other sound awareness talents. As children’s phonological awareness is a strong predictor of later reading success, it is crucial to improve their awareness of the beauty of speech.

Music and audio player Jooki is a perfect way for your child to learn how a word sounds and how the same word, when pronounced differently, can mean different things!

  1. Share the excitement, visually

The use of facial expressions, eye contact, gesture, poetic rhythm, volume, rate of speech, and body language assists children’s story comprehension and engagement. Experts have found that expressive language enhances the quality of shared book sessions, particularly with pre-school children.

Just as essential as love, food, and shelter is the nourishment of books. Shared book reading prepares children with many skills necessary for kindergarten and school. Better vocabulary, improved pronunciation, a better understanding of the nature and structure of language, improved interest in reading for pleasure are some of the key skills that help your child be ready to understand and speak to the world!

You can also complement shared reading with shared listening activities. Jooki is a music and story player parents and children can enjoy together. Why not try our Spotify playlist on 8 Cool and Classic Children’s Stories for Inspiring Young Minds for your next shared book listening time?

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