Storybook Reading in the
Primary Grades
Dr. Terry Deeney
Not Every Book is a
Story Book
Lots of picture books are not
Alphabet Books, Word Books and
Easy Readers
Word books
– Foster vocabulary knowledge
– Promote “reading” by looking at picture (printed
word corresponds with picture)
– Wonderful for babies, toddlers, preschoolers,
and emergent readers
Alphabet books
– Teaches letter names and/or letter-sound
– Great for emergent and beginning readers
Easy readers
Few words on a page
Simple sentence structure
Clear word/sentence-to-picture correspondence
Wonderful for emergent and beginning readers
Predictable Books: Predictable
• RhymingLanguage
Repetitive sentences or phrases
Sequential patterns
Repetitive questions/Answers
Cumulative structures
Song books
Predictable Books are not
• Predictable books
– typically do not follow traditional story
grammar (characters, setting, problem,
events, resolution, moral/theme)
– are not meant to teach comprehension
Reading in Primary Grades:
To, With, By
• Read-Aloud: Teacher reads to students
• Shared or Choral Reading
– Shared reading: Teacher reads book with students
joining in familiar refrains
– Choral reading: Teacher reads with students together
at the same time, or students read together with each
• Independent Reading: Books read by students; Students
read by themselves
Reading with Students:
Predictable Books
• Shared and choral reading
– Teaching concepts about print
– Teaching phonological/phonemic
– Teaching letter/word skills
– Teaching vocabulary
– Encouraging “pretend” reading
Reading by Students
• Books at students’ independent reading
level (98% accuracy, 90%
• Predictable books, vocabulary books,
and other easy picture books for
students who are not yet reading
Reading To Students:
Storybooks, Story Structure
• Characters: People or animals who act out the
• Setting: Time and place of the story
• Problem: Conflict that takes place in the story
• Events: Happenings that lead from the
problem to the solution
• Resolution: Solution to the problem
• Moral/theme: Author’s message for life
Storybooks: Decontextualized
Decontextualized Language
• Storybook language is different from oral
• Storybooks use words to create a world that
does not exist in the here and now
• The reader/listener may not have the benefit of
a common reference point
• The reader/listener does not have the benefit
of other, contextualized aspects of oral
language: Gestures, facial expressions, oral
• Meaning has to be created from words!
Oral versus Written Language
On a small tropical island, the sun
rose high above the steamy jungle.
A mother python was sending her
hatchlings out into the forest the
way all mother pythons do. “Grow
up big and green—as green as the
trees’ leaves,” she called to her
little yellow babies as they happily
scattered among the trees.
(From: Verdi, by Janell Cannon)
I went to the park with
Joey and we played on
the swings, and Joey did
this to me
(demonstrates). My mom
didn’t like that.
Lots of Storybooks
• Storybooks are found at all grade levels
• Storybooks might be “picture” books,
• But not all picture books are storybooks
• Storybooks might be “chapter” books,
• But some chapter books are really separate
Why Storybooks?
• Storybooks are the primary vehicle for
comprehension instruction in the
primary grades.
• Reading aloud storybooks is the
primary comprehension instructional
technique in kindergarten and first
• Reading aloud harder books than the
students can read themselves is still a
tool for comprehension throughout
elementary school
Comprehension Using
Traditional View of
• Comprehension is a set of
skills (main idea, cause and
effect, sequencing,
• The meaning of a text
resides in the text itself
• The job of the reader is to
remember the specific
information using skills (e.g.
identify main idea)
Traditional View, Traditional Patterns of
Classroom Talk
• IRE (Initiate, Respond, Evaluate) or
“Classroom quiz show”: Teachers act as
quiz show hosts, asking questions that
have one correct answer, which can
usually be found right in the text (Dillon,
1998; Roby, 1988; Mehan, 1979)
Teacher: What was Toad looking for?
Student: His button.
Teacher: That’s right.
• “Bull sessions”: Students offer opinions,
but comments are not connected or
responsive to what others are saying
(Roby, 1988).
Current Research-based Principles
of Comprehension
Comprehension Process
• Active: Making sense of the text ideas by questioning,
connecting, and explaining them; more than
remembering; requires effort and engagement
• Constructive: Constructing meaning during reading
based on the interaction between the reader (with prior
knowledge, skills, and strategies), the text, and the
• Strategic: Knowing when a text is not making sense and
consciously acting on this awareness
• Holistic: More than a set of skills; an active engagement
with a text where strategies are applied to gain meaning

Storybook Reading in the Primary Grades