Tips for a More Meaningful Story Time

Chloe ChenPostsLeave a Comment

M any parents of preschoolers know that it is important to read with their children at home, but they might not know that there are some reading strategies that are more beneficial than others.
stocksnap_ki0yu7b6o7In the first five years, children’s brain development is happening faster than at any other point in their lives. On top of this, 35% of U.S. children are starting kindergarten without the vocabulary they need to succeed. By third grade, children who are struggling to read proficiently are 4 to 6 times more likely not to graduate from high school on time. These startling statistics highlight why early reading experiences are so crucial for children’s development.
stocksnap_xdnpcsl1u2Researchers from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child have found that consistent and supportive relationships between caregivers and their children contribute to more balanced social, emotional, cognitive, and language development. One way to nurture this special relationship is through reading together. Reading at home before entering kindergarten has repeatedly been shown to be the single most significant factor contributing to early school success.
A photo by Ben White.

Even though young children might not be able to read for themselves, they can still be active participants in telling the story. Dialogic Reading is the name for a popular method that has been proven to be more successful in preparing children for school than the traditional “I read, you listen” method. Dialogic Reading focuses on encouraging conversation between the caregiver and child, and letting the child become the storyteller.

The next time you reach for that bedtime story, consider trying out the following Dialogic Reading tips on how to maximize your child’s learning:

(1) Ask CROWD questions to start the conversation. This chart shows examples of each type of question:

Question Type Example
C Completion: ask the child to finish a phrase (useful in books that rhyme or have repetition) If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of…?
R Recall: ask the child what happened to practice remembering details What happened when the mouse looked in the mirror?
O Open-Ended: ask the child a general question about what they see and think about the story to promote language development Can you tell me what is happening in this picture? What would you do if you were the mouse?
W Wh- (who, what, where, when, why, how): point to something on the page and ask the child to explain What is this called? What do you use it for?
D Distancing: help connect the story to the child’s own life Have you ever seen a mouse? What did it look like?

(2) After using a CROWD question to prompt the child, follow the PEER sequence. PEER stands for Prompt, Evaluate, Expand, and Repeat. Here’s an example:

Imagine you and your child are looking at a page that has a bird on it. You might say, “What is this?” (the CROWD prompt), while pointing to the bird. Your child responds “bird,” and you say, “Yes, you’re right! (your evaluation); it’s a purple bird (your expansion); can you say purple bird? (your repetition).

Good luck trying out these new strategies, and happy reading! If you need some story inspiration, check out our past blog posts of Teacher-Recommended books here, here, here, and here!

Noriko Louison, our Content Intern here at Woobo, authored this post. She is helping to stuff Woobo full of games that will make you laugh and inspire your imagination. Noriko is currently a Master’s student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education studying Human Development and Psychology, and plans to pursue a career in the children’s media and technology industry.

Carlo, M. S., August, D., & Snow, C. E. (2005). Sustained vocabulary-learning strategy instruction for English-language learners. Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice, 137-153.
Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). Retrieved from
Haney, M. H., & Hill, J. (2004). Relationships between parent-teaching activities and emergent literacy in preschool children. Early Child Development and Care, 17(3), 215–228.
Hernandez, D. J. (2011) Double jeopardy: how third grade reading skill and poverty influence high school graduation. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Whitehurst, G. (2015). Dialogic reading: an effective way to read to preschoolers. Retrieved from
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