“How do you teach reading using storybooks” is a question that I was often asked when I worked as a speech/language pathologist.

These people were often aware that I also worked with dyslexic children.

I would like to begin by telling how I liked to teach my own children using storybooks. My children loved to hear storybooks read because I made it fun.

It is possible for parents and preschool teachers to teach pre-reading skills to improve chances of good reading skills for all children. They can easily learn how to teach reading using storybooks with these tips!

How can we make it fun to teach reading using storybooks? Would you start drill work of teaching word recognition and phonics? Children will not respond well to drill work.

Also, the brain develops better with enjoyable and stimulating activities when adults learn how to teach reading using storybooks?

Research indicates that some pre-reading skills are learned before school begins.

Therefore, parents, grandparents and preschool and daycare persons play a large role in teaching pre-reading skills. And this is why it makes it easier and more fun for your kids when you learn how to teach reading using storybooks.

Here are the Five Areas to Teach Reading Using Storybooks with Young Children

• phonemic awareness
• print literacy
• language concepts
• specific suggestions and activities for storybook reading
• criteria for good books

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

The storybook is a great resource for teaching the skill of phonological/phonemic awareness.

Phonological awareness simply refers to understanding the number of words and syllables and how to mix parts of words to create new words.

Examples of phonological awareness:

• Child distinguishes number of words in a sentence. The cat is black. (4 words)
• Child distinguishes number of syllables. Hippo has two syllables (mouth opens two times)

Phonemic awareness refers to the skill of perceiving that speech sounds are different and manipulating these speech sounds (adding, deleting, shifting, and substituting) to create new words.

Rhyming words and blending and segmenting (breaking down) words are all a part of phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is important for learning phonics when the child has formal reading lessons in school.

Examples of phonemic awareness:

• Mat, delete /m/ = at.
• Mat, add /s/ = mats.
• Mats with the /t/ and /s/ shifted = mast.
• Mat with /k/ (sound, letter “c”) substituted for /m/ = cat.

There are Many Phonemic Awareness Activities You Can Do Along With a Story

• Allow your child to complete sentences or parts of a familiar story. My husband’s favorite game was “cheating” by skipping parts of a favorite story. My daughters would always catch him.
• Play word games with your child to count the words and syllables. Clap out the words in a sentence or the syllables in a word.
• If the storybook lends itself to music, sing the lyrics. My book, I Am Not Sleeping, can be sung it to the tune of Frere Jacque.
• Lost memory game: Pretend you cannot remember all of the word and your child to adds the last syllable. “e-le-____?” “elephant”
• Play ‘guess what word’ – great car game. Say words with a pause between the sounds; i.e. d-o-g (dog), and your child guesses the word you say.
• Play rhyming. My granddaughter’s favorite car game inspired me to write The Book of IF for Children. What would you do if your mom said, “Put your hat on your head”, and you thought she said, “Put your cat on your head”?

Print Awareness

This includes understanding that a word represents a picture or concept, knowing front and back of the book, understanding when to turn a page, understanding that print goes left-to-right.

Run your finger under the print as you read or have your child help your finger move.

Who wrote the book (author)?

Who illustrated the book (illustrator)?

Language Concepts

Language concepts that are specific to reading.

• First, middle, and last are understood in a left-to-right progression. If there are pictures on the page, you can ask, “What (who) is the first you see, the middle, the last?”
• Talk about word and sound. In talking about sound, you can begin with animal sounds and play games finding the animal sound. Find a good picture book of animals. Point to the picture. Who (what) says “moo”? Yes, you are right. A cow says “moo”. Say what a cow says? Wow, you can talk like a cow.
• To facilitate language (and later reading comprehension) ask who, what, where, when, and why questions.

Also, encourage your child to ask questions by praising them for asking questions. Using these strategies you quickly learn how to teach reading using storybooks!

Specific Suggestions and Activities to Use During Story Time to Teach Emergent Literacy

• Read a story as often as your child asks.
• Allow your child to choose books.
• Make reading an interactive activity.
• Allow him/her to re-tell a favorite book or story while you write it. Then read it to your child or your child can pretend to read it.

Criteria for Good Books for Young Children

• large print,
• some print embedded in the pictures,
• repetition, and lots of rhyming.
• relevant to your child
• silly sense of humor
• your child enjoys it

Learning how to teach reading using storybooks is effective because there are many ways to make it fun.

There is no drill work that can produce the effect of hating reading later.

Parents, grandparents, and pre-school teachers can teach the pre-reading skills during the storybook reading time. It is important that parents and early childhood educators address these early reading skills to prepare the children for greater reading success.

Children who are at greater risk (those with a family history of dyslexia, those who have had little exposure to oral language and print awareness, and those who have had many ear infections that have lasted for extended periods and specific diagnoses that may affect reading) may need more intensive one-on-one help from a professional.

However, if one follows the five important criteria above one can easily learn how to teach reading using storybooks, and teach early reading skills that will help all kids or at least give these kids a one-up on reading.

Lavelle Carlson is an author and retired speech-language pathologist.

She has worked with children with speech, language and reading delays and children with other disabilities such as autism.

She is the author of several children’s books, including EEK! I Hear a Squeak and the Scurrying of Little Feet, The Book of IF for Children, Galapagos Rules! Postcards from Poppies and I Am Not Sleeping.

She is President of SLP Storytellers, a website dedicated to showcasing books written by speech/language pathologists.



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