Supporting Young Children’s Language Skills Through Book Reading

Shared book reading, also known as interactive or dialogic reading, is when children and adults actively engage with a book together. This interactive approach can improve children’s interaction skills, understanding of language, sentence development and develop a love of reading. There are several strategies which can be undertaken to enhance the shared book reading experience.

Selecting the Book

The first important step is book selection. The most important consideration is choosing a book that will be interesting and engaging for your child. Children are much more likely to learn new information when they are actively participating in the experience. For younger children, books with an interactive component such as lift the flap or touch and feel books are likely to get their interest. For older children, it is best to select books which are on topics of high interest.

Tips During Book Reading

There are many ways which the book reading experience can be enhanced for children.

  • Comments rather than questions – Too many questions during book reading can lead to your child feeling pressured and can interrupt the flow of the interaction. Try to give comments such as “Look at the big red truck!” or “It’s a bird!”, rather than always asking questions such as “What’s this?”
  • Focus on Interest – When reading a book with a younger child, it is important to spend more time on the parts of the book that your child is interested in. If your child wants to spend longer on a particular page, follow their lead and provide comments about what you see. This will help them engage with the book for longer and listen out for new words.
  • Highlight Important Words – Choose a small number of key words to repeat and emphasise throughout the book. These words are key to help your child understand what is happening on the page. You can emphasise key words by saying the word slightly louder and slower, and repeating the word several times throughout the book.
  • Act it out – When a story is known to a child, you can act it out with actions or props. This could be as simple as using animal noises and gestures or using props to act out a well-known part of the story. This can help develop your child’s imagination and prediction skills.
  • Expand your child’s language – When your child says something about the book, acknowledge this and then expand upon their message. For example, if your child says, “I see the cat” you can reply with “Yes, I saw the brown cat in the tree.” This shows your child how they can say longer sentences.
  • Wait – After turning each page, wait to see if your child is interested in something on that page before you begin talking. You can also comment about something on the page and wait again. The purpose of waiting is to encourage your child to take a turn in the interaction by saying a word or pointing to something on the page.

Speech Pathologists have specialised skills in supporting children to develop their language and interaction skills through share book reading. For more information on how a speech pathologist can help your child feel free to contact us on (02) 4959 8920 or visit our Facebook page.


Lauren Lowry (2023). Sharing Books With Preschoolers, The Hanen Way. Available from the Hanen Centre website:,-the-Hanen-Way.aspx.

Cabell, S. C., Zucker, T. A., DeCoster, J., Melo, C., Forston, L., & Hamre, B. (2019). Prekindergarten interactive book reading quality and children’s language and literacy development: Classroom organization as a moderator. Early Education and Development, 30(1), 1–18.

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