Growing Language through Interactive Storybook Reading

The issue

Teachers and parents of DHH children are often concerned with language development. DHH children’s spoken or signed language outcomes vary due to the level of access they have to the languages of their homes or countries. One factor that appears to be crucial in successful sign or spoken language acquisition outcomes for DHH children is how much they interact with their caregivers.

In many homes, storybook reading is part of the daily routine and interaction between children and caregivers. Storybook reading appears to be useful in growing a child’s vocabulary, the building blocks of a language. Although shared reading (reading books together with a child) develops vocabulary, interactive storybook reading is one of the most effective strategies to improve children’s vocabulary knowledge.

What we know

Interactive storybook reading has a positive effect on vocabulary learning for DHH children who use spoken English, Cantonese, sign supported English (spoken English and American Sign Language signs used simultaneously), and sign supported Dutch. Also, the strategy has been effective with DHH children from the ages of three to six years old in the home with caregivers and at school with teachers.

What is the difference between shared reading or storybook reading and interactive storybook reading?

Shared Reading Interactive Storybook Reading
Reading the story aloud using spoken or sign language to the child Using the book as a shared experience or context
Focusing on Comprehension of the storyFocusing on developing the words and phrases needed to talk about the story
Focusing on the story elements (e.g., characters, setting, and plot)Asking the child questions in a specific manner to engage the child in conversation about the book or pictures

Interactive storybook reading has two levels. The first level is focused on learning vocabulary and phrases to talk about the book and the second level is focused on supporting the child to retell the book. Herein, we will focus on the first level of interactive storybook reading. When choosing a book, it should have clear pictures with a lot of action and not a lot of text. Once the parent or adult has chosen the book, they will come up with some CROWD questions to ask the DHH child.

Completion question
Recall question
Open-ended question
Wh- question
Distancing question
The dog is eating _________.
Where did the dog see the bone?
What do you think the dog will do next?
What is in the tree?
When have you felt the same as the dog?

Next, the parent or adult will follow this cycle: prompt (ask the child the CROWD question), evaluate (determine if the DHH child answered the question correctly), expand (add something to what the DHH child said or signed), and re-prompt (as the child the same CROWD question again). The purpose of the PEER cycle gives the DHH child multiple opportunities to say/sign an utterance.

PEER cycle example:

What is in the tree?
A blue bird
What is in the tree?
DHH child
Bird (If the child does not answer, the adult can answer.)

Blue bird

The same book is used with this process for up to 4 consecutive days of reading. Children enjoy the repetitive nature of interactive storybook reading and their answers become more accurate over time.

What we don’t know and implications

We don’t know which specific components of interactive storybook reading are most effective. It is possible that the strategy’s repetitive nature is the reason DHH children learn the words. It is also possible that the repeated opportunities to say/sign the words in order to answer the CROWD questions support vocabulary learning. More research is needed to determine which specific components of the strategy have the most impact and the minimum number of story repetitions that are needed for effectiveness.

Currently, little is known about the second level of interactive storybook reading with DHH children. Research is needed to better understand how the CROWD question forms and the PEER cycle support DHH children’s retelling skills.

Posted on Jan. 17, 2020 by
Jessica W. Trussell
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Rochester Institute of Technology

Further reading