“I wish…I think…I wonder…”: Improving parents’ shared book readings

Shared book reading can be a sweet moment between parent and child—while also serving to improve a child’s literacy skills. The trick is figuring out how to help parents make the most of these interactions. This pilot study examined the effects of a short training on parent–child storybook readings. While this study focused on Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing preschoolers, most outcomes focused on the changes in the parents’ skills—meaning you can apply this across many populations.

Researchers recorded multiple shared book readings at each of three stages in the experiment: before training parents, in the “intervention period” (the two weeks following the parent training), and eight weeks after training. The training was only twenty minutes long (very do-able for real world clinicians!) and included a very short power point, a two-minute video model, and discussion with the parents. The authors focused on these topics for parent training:

  • Switching mindset from “education” to gaining insight into the child’s thoughts

  • No such thing as right or wrong

  • Increasing use of wait time

  • Increasing conversational turns

  • Making phonemic awareness fun and silly (like making up nonsense words by taking words in the text and changing one phoneme)

  • Using open ended prompts: “I wish…”  “I think…” “I wonder…” “What do you think?”

Parents were also given two booklets from the National Institute for Literacy and a few wordless picture books to add to their home collection.

When measuring parent interaction types, the authors split prompts into two categories:

Open-Ended Prompts

Questions that encourage open-ended discussion: “What do you think…

Indirect prompts such as “I think…” or “I hope…” paired with wait time

Closed-Ended or Right/Wrong Prompts

WH questions about the story text: “What is that?” “Where is her bone?

Questions about the story text that encourage one word answers

Yes/no questions or “how many” questions

For only spending twenty minutes on parent training, researchers saw some encouraging changes! Both the total number of parent–child exchanges and the percentage of open-ended prompts increased from baseline, through the intervention and retention stages. The percentage of words spoken by the child was also higher in the intervention and retention stages (though only the intervention stage showed a statistically significant difference from baseline levels). Because a dip was shown in all outcomes during the retention stage, eight weeks after training, it looks like clinicians will probably need to follow-up with parents periodically.

For more along these lines, check out our reviews about supporting parents to complete literacy programs, teaching vocabulary via shared readings, and improving the narrative comprehension of children with ASD.

Nelson, L. H., Stoddard, S. M., Fryer, S. L., & Muñoz, K. (2019). Increasing Engagement of Children Who Are DHH During Parent–Child Storybook Reading. Communication Disorders Quarterly. doi:10.1177/1525740118819662