Speech All the Time

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Is Shared Storybook Reading Evidence Based?

What is shared storybook reading? It is when an adult reads to children and stops to engage them in a discussion about the book. Many of us love storybooks and use them as a means of speech and language intervention. In this day and age of evidence-based practices, we may ask ourselves whether or not this intervention is evidence based. Interactive storybook reading has been shown to produce significant gains in oral language development. Several researchers in the field of reading and speech and language have explored this issue. 


Storybook Preview
  • increases expressive and receptive language in the context of literature
  • content of the book is explored by using a picture walk---looking at and talking about the pictures
  • builds vocabulary
  • connections to real life

Read Aloud
  • targets the development of print, vocabulary, and oral language
  • children can choose their favorite page

Story Celebration
  • follow up activities extend children’s learning
  • activities should be motivating, relate to the meaning of the book, and have meaning to the children
  • connecting the meaning of the book to children’s own experiences, as well as to new experiences


Oral Language Development
  • hearing sophisticated comments provide good language models
  • use of open ended questions allow for multiple responses and connections to story content
  • children learn to expand their explanations                                 
Comprehension Development
  • questions asked before reading help children predict what they think the story will be about
  • open-ended questions connect the reader to the text
  • text to text questions during reading encourage children to think about and process the meaning of what is being read to them
  • after-reading questions cause children to reflect on what they just heard

  • words can be taught explicitly through pointing and labeling
  • picture cards and prompts help students discuss their understanding
  • saying the words helps establish a phonological representation
  • child-friendly definitions can be provided
  • definitions related to how the words are used in the story can be related to real world examples of how to use the words outside the story

Phonological Awareness
  • attention can be drawn to rhyming words
  • the last words of a sentence can be left off enabling the children to provide a rhyming word
  • word syllables and words in a sentence can be “clapped”

Book and Print Conventions
  • how to hold a book
  • turning pages left to right
  • identifying a title
  • differentiating between words and pictures

Concept of Letter and Word
  • tracking print from left to right 
  • placing fingers under each word as it is read

Alphabet Knowledge
  • targeting specific letters of the alphabet before, during or after shared storybook reading
  • specific letters on a page can be identified


A large number of children with developmental disabilities do not care for book reading activities. Since it is a language-based activity and the communication demands are high, those children with impaired speech and language may not find this an engaging activity. To increase interest, we need to create engaging activities to go along with the storybook readings. (Justice & Kaderavek, 2002). 

How can we increase the appeal of storybook reading to young children with developmental delays? 
  • ensure that both the adult and the children interact with the book
  • increase children’s level of control
  • lift-the-flap books
  • slot books
  • predictable books
  • select books with few words per page
  • large print
  • repeated use of words
  • print embedded in the illustrations
  • talk about print

Considerations when reading to children with developmental disabilities (Justice & Kaderavek, 2002).
  • If the language demands of the story appear too difficult, modify the interaction to match the child’s interests and skills.
  • Embedded print encourages children to engage with written language.
  • Children add considerable knowledge about language from birth to age 6.

Specific practices and components have been associated with improved achievement from shared storybook reading.

Dialogic reading, (Whitehurst, Grover J., 1994) a method for shared storybook  reading, highlights a powerful approach to helping children talk more and give detailed descriptions. This happens by
  • prompting children to say something about the book
  • asking questions throughout the story
  • expanding child utterances
  • asking open-ended questions


Senechal (1997) studied the effects of repeated storybook readings to 3 and 4-year olds. She found that:
  • increased exposure to storybook reading enhanced receptive and expressive vocabulary skills
  • active responding during repeated readings increased expressive vocabulary more than receptive vocabulary
  • children made more gains in vocabulary after three readings of a book than after a single reading
  • children were able to extract clues from the text and the pictures
  • inferred meaning increased
  • asking labeling questions increased use of expressive vocabulary



Beauchat, K.A., Blamey, K.L., & Walpole, S., (2009) Building Preschool Children’s Language and Literacy One Storybook at a Time. The Reading Teacher, 63(2), pp. 26-39.

Howard, J., & McCathren, R.B., (2003), Developing Emergent Literacy Skills Through Storybook Reading, Intervention in School and Clinic, 39(2). pp. 72-79

Justice, L.M., & Kaderavek, J., (2002), Using Shared Storybook Reading to Promote Emergent Literacy, Teaching Exceptional Children, 34(4), pp. 8-13.

Senechal, M., (1997),The Differential Effect of Storybook Reading on Preschoolers’ Acquisition of Expressive and Receptive Language; Journal of Child Language, 24, pp. 123-138.

Whitehurst, Grover J., Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers; http://www.readingrockets.org/article/400/

Whitehurst, Grover J., Arnold, David S., Epstein, Jeffery N., Angell, Andrea L., Smith, Meagan; & Fischel, Janet E., (1994) A picture book reading intervention in day care and home for children from low-income families; Developmental Psychology, Vol 30(5), pp. 679-68.

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