Have you heard of storybook walk? Read the article and find out!

Katherine Mansfield's headshot

By Katherine Mansfield

About the author: 

Katherine Mansfield is a second-year speech-language pathology student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been a part of the STEMIE Storybook Team since October 2021. Her professional experience includes graduate internships where she works with children of all abilities to diagnose and treat communication and feeding disorders. Katherine is always eager to learn more about how to make a child’s therapy goals functional for them at home, given their family and home situation, preferences, skills, and current areas of need. She enjoys brainstorming ways to incorporate literacy into the speech therapy sessions she provides. She received her undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at North Carolina State University in May 2020.

Reading books about a variety of topics not only stimulates a child’s language development, but it also exposes them to basic concepts that are useful and meaningful in their day-to-day lives and future. For example, when reading or listening to a book about the solar system, a child can learn new vocabulary (e.g., the name of planets, the sun) which is beneficial for their language development and for their emerging interest and knowledge about science. They may become curious when they see the Sun and share what they know about it when they see it in the sky. This combination of learning about different topics, like space, and developing language skills while reading is exciting for children and overall, manageable for you to implement as their parent, teacher, caregiver, or another person in the child’s life. While exploring this variety of books, you will likely discover a new book to read at either a library, bookstore, or online resource. Here, you and your child have the opportunity to take typical book-reading to the next level. How? By engaging the child in a “storybook walk” before reading the new book together.

First, what is a storybook walk? A storybook walk is a strategy used to introduce new concepts, make creative associations and inferences, and increase interest in a new book that a child is preparing to read (Briggs & Forbes, 2011). During this storybook walk, you would “walk” the child through the book by reading the title, looking and flipping through the pages, introducing characters, making inferences about what might happen in the book, reviewing or teaching new vocabulary words, and assessing which concepts are already familiar to the child. The key to the storybook walk is increasing exposure and interest without reading the book cover to cover! appropriate adaptations, these pre-reading opportunities can be useful for children of all ages, skill levels, and who might benefit from additional support.

Using objects and visual pictures to introduce new vocabulary

Introducing vocabulary words before reading can be modified to meet the child’s current skill level and needs. For example, a child with blindness or visual impairment may require alternative means to access the information presented in a book. As part of your storybook walk for this book, you can provide a story box, a box of physical objects that are related to the story at hand. This offers a multisensory experience for the child as they learn about the book. For example, for the book  , you might include fur in the storybox to represent the fox character, so the child is able to engage with the materials using their sense of touch rather than sight. You can also pair the book with other visual adaptations such as enlarged symbols that represent the pictures, characters, and concepts presented in the book. The STEMIE Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers visual adaptations and storybox ideas for a variety of STEM books for your reference as you begin thinking about how to adapt different books to meet your child’s needs.

Offering these physical objects or picture symbols, when appropriate for the child increases not only the child’s exposure to new vocabulary words, but it increases their interest in the content at hand and their ability to engage with the book. As you do so, reinforce the new concepts and important vocabulary words. You can always revisit, revise, and verify the inferences you all made together as you pre-read the book.

Provide seating choices

If a child requires additional support to access the information presented in a storybook walk, consider strategies like flexible seating options, giving the child hands-on access to the book and materials to independently explore the content during the storybook walk, and simplifying your language to increase their motivation and confidence when learning newer concepts. Each child has a unique set of needs. The good news is that you can help meet these needs during storybook walks by using your creativity and individual expertise; you are one of the people in the child’s life that knows them best!

As you and the child(ren) in your life begin incorporating storybook walks into your reading routines, enjoy the process! It may feel awkward, at first, to talk about the book without reading it first, but it becomes more natural the more you all engage in these reading preparation exercises. An overarching strategy to remember when leading these storybook walks is flexibility. Be flexible with how you meet your child’s needs (i.e., when choosing picture symbols or physical objects to engage a child with a visual impairment) and when your plan may not go as you expected it to. Your child will see you model creativity and open-mindedness, which can encourage them to be open-minded and curious during these pre-reading and reading activities as well.

You can find a video example here. (This video was developed in collaboration with the Kansas Deaf-Blind Project and Kansas State School for the Blind.

 References:

Briggs, C., & Forbes, S. (2009). Orientation to a new book: More than a picture walk. The Reading Teacher62(8), 706-709.

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