Have you ever wondered what kids do for reading in school if they haven't yet learned how to read conventionally? What is going on in reading workshop for the first few weeks of kindergarten? What can you do at home for your own children who have not yet learned to read conventionally?
In schools across the country where I work, kindergarten teachers read and re-read special storybooks that we call "emergent storybooks." Sometimes we call these books "Star Books" or "Old Favorites," and keep them in special bins in the classroom library so children can find them easily.
Emergent storybook reading in many classrooms is based on the work of Elizabeth Sulzby, a renowned researcher. To support emergent readers, teachers read aloud a few stories again and again. The children get to know the stories really well, and soon will begin to talk about the pictures and even tell the story to go with the pages. Some children will even point to the words and "read." All of this fosters a love of language and books along with an emerging understanding of how reading works.
Kindergarten teachers will of course read aloud a wide range of books - stories, information books, songs and poems, and will likely have more than one type of reading aloud happening each day. But emergent storybooks are a particular type of book that meet a special set of criteria.
EMERGENT STORYBOOK CRITERIA
1. Must have characters, a problem, and a solution.
2. Must have pictures that closely match what the text says on each page. This is crucial for emergent storybook reading.
3. Must be highly engaging. These are books children love to hear again and again.
4. Are memorable - often there is a refrain or repeated phrase that helps kids remember how the story goes.
5. Contain rich, beautiful, literary language (think of fairytales or folktales as examples).
Some examples of emergent storybooks that you might know:
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Three Little Pigs by Paul Galdone
Because teachers are looking for books containing rich literary language, emergent storybooks are often folktales or classic stories. However, some contemporary stories and poems will work well too, such as:
Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
Owl Babies by Martin Wadell
Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin
Once you've gathered some books, you will need to read them aloud again and again. Soon, children will know the story so well that they will start to chime in with you. Then they'll start to tell the story to go with the pictures on their own. Sometimes, they will even start recognizing some of the words in the book.
A few tips for reading in a way that is especially supportive:
1. Make your voice as EXPRESSIVE as possible!
2. Point to the PICTURES as you read.
3. Use GESTURES and act the story out with your hands and your body as you read.
Emergent storybook reading isn't just for classroom teachers or researchers. Parents and caregivers can support their wee readers at home by reading ...and reading ...and reading these books!
Note: This post has been updated for clarification. 12/1/2016.