Thursday, January 5, 2012

Emergent Storybook Reading

Have you ever wondered what kids do for "reading" in school if they haven't yet learned how to read conventionally? Well, I will tell you!

In schools across the country where I work, kindergarten teachers read and re-read special storybooks that we call "emergent storybooks." This is based on the work of Elizabeth Sulzby, a renowned researcher. To support emergent readers, teachers read aloud a few stories again and again. The children get to know the stories really well, and soon will begin to talk about the pictures and even tell the story to go with the pages. Some children will even point to the words and "read." All of this fosters a love of reading along with an emerging understanding of how reading works.

In classrooms, teachers will scour the classroom library for books that:
1. Have characters, a problem, and a solution
2. Have pictures that closely match what the text says on each page
3. Are highly engaging. The kind of books children love to hear again and again.
4. Are memorable - often there is a refrain or repeated phrase that helps kids remember how the story goes.
5. Contain rich, beautiful, literary language (think fairytales or folktales as examples)

Some examples of emergent storybooks that you might know:
Caps for Sale
Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Gingerbread Man
Three Little Pigs

Once you have some books, all you need to do is read them again and again. Soon, your child will know the story so well that she'll start to chime in with you. Then she'll start to tell the story to go with the pictures herself. Sometimes, she'll even start recognizing some of the words in the book!

A few tips for reading in a way that is especially supportive:
1. Make your voice as EXPRESSIVE as possible!
2. Point to the PICTURES as you read.
3. Use GESTURES and act things out with your hands and your body as you read.

Emergent storybook reading isn't just for classroom teachers or researchers. Parents and caregivers can support their wee readers at home by reading and reading and reading these books!


  1. I love the story, "Caps for Sale." It is so much fun.

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