34 In Child Development

Making the Most out of Storytime (with printable!)

tips on reading aloud

Reading aloud to your toddler and preschooler is probably the single best thing you can do for their cognitive development (besides plenty of unstructured playtime)! Reading ability is partially genetic, surprisingly so, but the environment has a large influence as well. Interestingly, the effect of reading snowballs over time: Children who are exposed to more books in early life develop better reading ability and those with better reading ability read more, thereby increasing their sphere of knowledge.
tips on reading aloud
Research with identical twins (thus ruling out other explanations) shows a causal link between reading ability and better verbal and general intelligence over time.

Another study shows how this effect snowballs over time: exposure to books and reading in preschool and kindergarten explained 12% of the difference on oral language tests (12% of the reason children did better on that test was due to exposure to books), this increased to 13% in elementary school, 19% in middle school, 30% in high school and 34% in college!

Not only does reading with toddlers and preschoolers affect their developing intelligence it also positively impacts their social and emotional intelligence, especially if the books you read are about social or emotional situations.

The research is so clear that in the Summer of 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a study and a program to encourage pediatricians to discuss the multiple benefits of shared reading time with parents.  The AAP encourages parents to read aloud starting in infancy, but there is no reason to stop even when children are older. Parents who continue to read aloud (i.e. chapters books etc.), perhaps even taking turns reading, have children who read more on their own and share a love for reading.


But it isn’t just about how much we read to our children, but how we read with them.

A little over 20 years ago Dr. Whitehurst and his colleagues developed and researched a shared reading strategy they dubbed “Dialogic Reading.” Dialogic Reading is a style of reading in which the parent engages the child in a conversation (i.e. dialog) about the story. Over the last several years several researchers have put this strategy to the test and it works. Dialogic reading results in more expressive and receptive language in preschoolers and that leads to better reading ability, which leads to more reading and so on, as discussed above.

So what exactly is Dialogic Reading and how do you do it? I’ll explain it here and there is a handy printable below you can save and print to refer to later.

Dialogic Reading is when you include your child in the telling of the story through prompts — like what happens next? And then give feedback on their response. Whitehurst and colleagues developed an acronym for the interaction in which your child tells the story with you as your PEER:


For example, with a young toddler PEER might look like this:

What color is the bus? (Prompt) Yes, the bus is yellow (Evaluate). That is a yellow school bus (Expand). The bus is a yellow school bus (Repeat).

With an older preschooler, PEER could look something like this when reading If you Give a Mouse a Cookie: 

What do you think the Mouse will want next? (Prompt) Yes, I think he will want another cookie (Evaluate) Why did he want another cookie? (Expand) The mouse wanted another cookie to go with that milk. 

There are many types of prompts you could use. Whitehurst and colleagues came up with five types of prompts and the acronym CROWD to remember them:


Completion prompts are when you leave the sentence blank: “And chances are if he asks for a glass of milk, he’s going to want ____________.”

Recall prompts are when you ask your child to remember what happens in a book they have already read, “Does the mouse take a nap?” “What happens when the mouse looks in the mirror?”

Open-ended prompts are when you say something like “what is happening in this picture?”

The What, when, why, where and how prompt, is pretty self-explanatory.

And the Distancing prompt are really more of a connecting prompt– for example, “Do you remember when we made cookies with Daddy?”

I don’t use this method every time I read with J (anyone else feel like your bedtime routine is long enough as it is, thank you very much!) I also don’t use all the strategies every time, I tend to use the completion prompt the most, and I don’t always follow through all four steps of the PEER strategy. But, I do use these often and I view it as learning time– I don’t do a lot of other direct instruction as I think at this age he learns best from play.

I think the best way to use this is to adapt to your child’s ability and use it when it feels right. Once it starts to feel natural (it’s harder with younger kids), it can be fun — it is amazing the ideas they have in their little heads!

In the end, it is all about having them help tell the story with you and connecting with them. I think that makes storytime meaningful, which makes for greater learning.

Happy storytime everyone! Find lists my favorite interactive read aloud books for Preschoolers here and toddlers here! Also don’t miss my post on reading and the brain and the importance of rhyming books.


Here is a printable guide for Reading Aloud to Children!!! To download a copy click here –>How to Read Aloud to your Child

How to Read Aloud to your Child

How to Read Aloud to your Child

Follow Ashley @ Nurture and Thrive’s board Nurture Preschoolers on Pinterest.


You Might Also Like

  • Carol - My Bored Toddler
    March 9, 2015 at 7:09 am

    What a fantastic article! As a teacher it is often hard to explain to parents how important it is to read to your children and this article spells it all out! I will definitely be sharing this!

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      March 9, 2015 at 7:32 am

      Thank you Carol. It was helpful for my own reading with my son to lay it out in a post. Thank you for sharing!

  • Catherine
    March 9, 2015 at 7:12 am

    A great post. I’m looking forward to seeing which books you include in your booklists 🙂


  • Marina
    March 9, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Great and informative!!

  • Robin @ The Golden Rule Kids
    March 9, 2015 at 10:03 am

    What all great advice. Reading with children is such a great thing to do all together. I still read with my older children as much as possible.

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      March 9, 2015 at 10:18 am

      Thanks Robin! I think it is great you read with your older children– I look forward to reading chapter books together.

  • Coombe Mill
    March 9, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Starting a lovely of reading and listening to stories young can help create a good reader as they grow. I find their desire to read books that are more grown up than their reading ability can become an issue, reading with them can bridge this gap while their own reading catches up. #Prentingpinparty

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      March 9, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Great point Coombe, another reason why reading with your child isn’t limited to the younger years. (:

  • Bridget/The Recipe Wench
    March 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Loved this article. Thank you! My children are grown but I look forward to reading to my grand children someday! Thanks for sharing this at the Inspire Me Monday’s Link-Up! I hope to see you around next week!

  • Summer
    March 10, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Wow, this is great! I think reading is SO IMPORTANT and really, truly love to read with my little ones–it’s good to see that what is important to me has long-term impact too! I loved your research and the acronyms to help remember to give our kids prompts. My 2-year-old thrives on them. Her fave book right now is “Little Blue Truck” and she love love LOVES to finish the sentences and tell you what the characters are and what they’re doing. It’s so fun! 🙂

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      March 10, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      My guy loved (still does) little blue truck too! Glad you liked the article!

  • Janine Halloran
    March 10, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    What an excellent explanation of why to read and how to do it effectively. We love to read to our kids – my husband just finished reading Harry Potter to our oldest. Such a fun connection for them. He checks in with my daughter all the time about what she remembers and what she thinks will happen next! Thanks for linking up to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party. I have pinned your post to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Board.

  • Let kids be kids
    March 11, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Very interesting. We have always read aloud to all our children as we believe it is important. My son was a very early talker. I do find it interesting though as I have identical twin girls and one is more advanced in reading than the other. I really must make an effort to use these prompts as I think it will help them all.
    Thanks you for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

  • Sadia
    March 12, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Hi! I’ve done this dialogic reading with my kids since they were born, although I never knew to call it that. We actually approach screentime the same way. When we watch TV (weekends only), we watch it together and discuss what’s happening, why, and what might happen instead. I figure that’s working my daughters’ cognitive and analytic skills too.

    And I happen to have advanced reader identical twins. (Yes, they’ve participated in research studies in the past!!!)

    • Sadia
      March 12, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Oh, found on the Mom 2 Mom linkup.

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      March 12, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Hi Sadia,

      That’s great you have been doing that with TV too and in fact there are studies that show that watching with children increases learning compared to children watching alone. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Aly
    March 13, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Wow! I’ll be printing this out and bookmarking this,thanks for taking part in the Parenting Pin-It Party

  • Heather H
    March 13, 2015 at 11:45 am

    I love this well-researched article. I think used to naturally do this type of reading more when my kids were short-attention-span-toddlers. It’s easy just to get wrapped into a story for older kids, and forget to stop and discuss it. Yet, it’s still so important for their comprehension to have dialogue with them.

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      March 13, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Thank you Heather! Check back next week– I’ll have another research based post in this series on brain development and phonological and print awareness,

  • Brandi Clevinger
    March 14, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    This is a very informative post! I like to read aloud to my kids who range from nine to three. I ask questions about the pictures and ask questions about what they think will happen next. To me, reading is essential. I appreciate your research and time with this article!

    Thanks for sharing at Inspire Me Mondays!

  • Brandi Clevinger
    March 14, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Your post is one of my two favorite posts from this week’s linkup at Inspire Me Mondays. I will have this post pinned to our group board Inspire Me Mondays at http://www.Pinterest.com/beingfibromom

    Please come check out your post and link up more posts at next week’s linkup at Being Fibro Mom – http://www.beingfibromom.com

    See you next week!

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      March 15, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Thanks Brandi, I definitely stop by next week! I appreciate the feature!

  • Samantha @ Stir the Wonder
    March 14, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    This is so interesting & great advice! Thanks for sharing at the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop! We hope you join us again next week!

  • Inspire Me Monday
    March 16, 2015 at 9:02 am

    […] Making the Most Out of Storytime (with printable) from Nurture and Thrive […]

  • Let kids be kids linky 17/3/15 - Let Kids Be Kids | Let Kids Be Kids
    March 17, 2015 at 2:01 am

    […] Great ideas for making the most of story time via Nurture and Thrive […]

  • Godly Indian Mom
    March 22, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Great article Ashley.I’ll be using this with my little man :).Thanks for Sharing.

  • 7 Tips for FUN Summer Reading! - Busy Moms Helper
    June 5, 2015 at 6:03 am

    […] When reading aloud to your children engage them in the story. Ask them questions about what happens next or how the character feels. This kind of interaction helps young children began to learn how to tell a story and the process of reading. Research shows that when parents use a more interactive reading style their children show significantly better literacy skills. For more on interactive reading and a handy printable with types of prompts to ask your children click here! […]

  • Tips for a Better Bedtime Routine - Nurture and Thrive
    November 16, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    […] Read More… […]

  • Top 10 Parenting Tips and Posts of 2015 - Nurture and Thrive
    January 15, 2016 at 8:02 am

    […] Read More… […]

  • Best Interactive Books for Toddlers - Nurture and Thrive
    April 15, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    […] Read More… […]

  • Best Interactive Books for Preschoolers - Nurture and Thrive
    April 15, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    […] Read More… […]