Communication Matters

Make Book Reading Interactive

Anne M. Calic MA CCC-SLP | Posted on September 7, 2018

Bedtime storyReading books with your preschooler is one of the best ways to increase language and pre-literacy skills.  Language skills include listening (comprehending or understanding of concepts) and speaking (expressing thoughts, ideas, concepts, and feelings). Pre-literacy skills are those behaviors associated with successful reading development and include strong vocabulary and narrative skills, interest in books, print awareness, and phonological awareness. Some phonological awareness tasks for a preschool-aged child are rhyming, segmenting and blending syllables into words, and identifying beginning and ending sounds in words.

You can make the most of reading time by making it interactive. Turn it into a conversation by discussing the characters, pictures, feelings, and any new vocabulary. You can link the story to events and experiences that have happened in your child’s life.  Here are some examples of concepts to target while reading the popular book Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin/ Eric Carle.  Keep in mind, these concepts can be adapted to any book or story.


Start a conversation about the book before you even begin reading by introducing the characters in the story.  

 What you say:

“What is a character? A character is a person or animal in a story, a movie, or a TV show. Do you think the characters in this story will be people or animals?”

 Show the cover of the book. Have your child guess the characters. Give clues for each character.  

 What you say:

“This first character is a big animal that can stand on his back two legs with sharp claws- brown bear; The next character is an animal that flies- red bird; The next character is an animal that says “quack”- yellow duck;” etc. 

 Count how many characters are in the story. There are 9 animal characters in this story. 


As you introduce each character, discuss the first sound in the animal’s name.

 What you say:

 “Animals make sounds and so do letters of the alphabet. Lion starts with the letter ‘L’. The letter ‘L’ makes the sound /l/. Watch my mouth when I make that sound – /l/. I put my tongue up behind my teeth and turn on my motor. Can you do that /l/ sound with me? Great! Now say ‘lion’. Did you hear that /l/ sound at the beginning?”

For this task, you just want to focus on the first sound in the word ‘lion’ instead of focusing on the letter name ‘L’. 


Talk about the title, author, and illustrator of the book. Discuss the front and back of the book and where you begin reading.

What you say:

“This is the title of the book. Look, it is here on the front cover of the book. If this is the front cover of the book, then this is the _____ (back) cover. Those are opposite words: front/back.”

Discuss the picture on the cover. Point out the print in the book.

What you say:

“Sometimes the author has written the words at the top of the page, and sometimes the words are at the bottom. Those are opposite words: top/bottom.”

Read the story while pointing to the print. 


While reading the story, remind your child to look at the color of each animal. Also listen for the first sound in each animal name as you move on to the next page. Discuss how you produce each initial sound. Direct your child’s attention to the movement of your tongue and the placement of your teeth and lips. You can use a mirror so that your child can imitate those movements to produce those sounds.  


This is a repetitive story. Repetition provides the practice that children need to master skills. This will increase your child’s confidence in retelling this story back to you. Have your child help you read this story by asking each animal “What do you see?” Continue to have your child repeat that question for each new animal character.


Ask your child open-ended questions instead of ‘yes/no’ questions, or those that require a one-word response. Open-ended questions require more thought and have more than one possible response.

This type of question encourages creativity and reasoning skills. Some examples of open-ended questions are the following: “What do you know about a bear? What can you tell me about a bird?” 

Be sure to model answers when necessary.

Expand and extend your child’s answers or comments. When your child says something about the book, repeat what he or she says and add more information to that verbalization. For example: If the child says, ‘red bird’ you might say, “Yes, I see a red bird.  Birds come in different colors.  They like to fly in the sky.” 


Allow your child to predict the characters as they appear in sequence.

What you say:

“Which character do you think will be next?” 

Use pictures for clues as to which animal will appear next. 

 You can follow up with this animal theme with activities and word games. 

  • Take a trip to the zoo and have your child try to remember which animals were characters in the story.
  • Look through magazines to find pictures of their favorite animals. See if your child can identify the first sound in the animal’s name.
  • Categorize animals by where they live.

What you say:

How many animals can you think of that live in the ocean? On a farm? In the jungle?

Have a discussion about whether or not each animal could be a pet. 

What you say:

What are some reasons why some animals would not make good pets? Some of these animals can live in homes. Would you like to have that animal as a pet in our home? Why?”

  • Discuss what noises different animals make.
  • Have a conversation about what different animals like to eat.
  • Introduce rhyming by explaining that words that rhyme sound the same at the end, such as “bat” and ‘cat’ or ‘dog’ and ‘frog’. Make up silly or real words that rhyme with the animal character names.

Tags: Speech, Language, Communication, Learning



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