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Let's read a book! Reading aloud in preschool to support children's language development An evaluation of a development project in a Swedish municipality

Karin Renblad and Jane Brodin School of Education and Communication (HLK), Preschool Research, Jönköping University, Sweden

Paper presented at the 18th European Conference on Reading, Swedish Council of International Reading Association (SCIRA), August 6-9th, 2013, at Jönköping University, Sweden


The project ”Let’s read a book” is part of a three year long cooperation between a municipality in Jönköping’s county and Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication (HLK) The target group is eleven municipal preschools, serving 573 children between one and five years of age, and divided into 23 child units 2

National curriculum for preschool for giving all children equal opportunities In 1998 Sweden got its first National Curriculum for Preschool (Lpfö 98). It was revised in 2010 and implemented on July 1st, 2011 The curriculum is part of the general education system and the Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for preschool education 3

Swedish preschool and language development The mission of the Swedish preschool is to stimulate children's learning and development in a holistic way (Lpfö98/10) and preschool forms the basis of lifelong learning  The goal areas in preschool are language and communication, mathematics, nature science and technology 4

Cont preschool

A majority of all children (1-5 yrs) attend preschool and preschool thus plays a key role in children’s language development

There is no other period in child development that contains that much learning as the first five years in life Children need support in preschool to develop their communication, identity and creativity


Goals for language learning and development according to the curriculum (Lpfö 98/10)

acquire and be able to differentiate shades of meaning in concepts, see interconnections and discover new ways of understanding the surrounding world develop their ability to listen, reflect and express their own views and try to understand the perspectives of others (p 10) 6

Cont. Goals

To develop their use of spoken language, vocabulary and concepts as well as the ability to play with words, relate something, express their thoughts, put questions, and put forward their arguments and communicate with others

develop an interest in the written language and an understanding of symbols, and their communicative functions (p 10)


Cont. goals

develop an interest in pictures, texts and different media, as well as the ability to make use of, interpret and talk about them develop their creative abilities and the ability to convey impressions, thoughts and experiences in many different forms of expression, such as play, pictures, song and music, dance and drama (p 10) 8

Background to the reading aloud project

The starting point was a municipal language development project based on reoccuring reports from the preschool staff and special pedagogues who experienced that a huge number of preschool children had a poorer language development than earlier age groups. The need for improvements was therefore obvious. 9

The purpose of the municipal project (March 2012 - June 2013)

The main purpose was to raise awareness of the importance of communication, reading aloud and storytelling The purpose was also to stress the impact these efforts have on children's language development both among staff and parents and to promote the development of the physical environment in preschool 10

Activities conducted in the municipal project  The staff studied a variety of material about reading aloud and factors stimulating language development

 Lectures on reading aloud, story telling and the importance of the physical environment was carried out for the staff  A lecture on reading aloud was carried out for the parents 11

Let’s read a book – an evaluation of reading aloud and storytelling

The aim of the study was to evaluate if and how the project on language development influenced reading aloud, storytelling and the physical environment according to the preschool staff


Method The data collection consists of a websurvey covering background information and 15 different questions with sub-items including space for comments The survey was distributed before the project started and followed up when the project was finished. The same questions were asked at both occasions The survey was answered on team-level by each unit


Results - Reading aloud and storytelling The eleven preschools report that they read aloud every day and that a majority (21 units) read several times a day, which is an increase Reading aloud in the large group and for each individual child has increased and also takes place spontaneously 14

The main time during the day for reading aloud

When the children sit together during the morning assembly During play – when a child turns up with a book – they are in principle always recognized At the end of the day when the children want to relax The staff also tell stories or read aloud when the children are resting 15

What do they read? Story books Rhymes and jingles Factual study books Song books Stories based on reality Picture books The interests of the children influence what books are read but the staff try to vary the selection of books


Accessibility of books Some books belong to the child group and are always available (19/23) Books are available on the mother language of each child (15/18) Books representative for different ethnical origin are available (5/12) The staff introduce new books for the children (15/20) 17

Children’s influence on the choice of books The children’s interests are analyzed before purchase or library loan (20/23) The pedagogues select the books (22/22) The children select the books (19/18) All preschool units (23) discuss the books after reading, they talk about the pictures and reflect about what they have read or been told


How do the children process the content of the books? Primarily in play Forms for processing their impressions: - drama play - puppet theatre - music - drawing pictures - theme deepening work - reading and writing


Storytelling The staff use flannelboards (19/20) The children use the flannelboards (6/8) The staff make up stories and tell the children (8/19) The children make up stories and tell each other (6/17)


Cooperation – home -preschool The preschool cooperates with the home about reading aloud and storytelling (8/18) The preschool cooperates with the library about reading aloud and storytelling (8/7)


Conclusion - The staff’s experiences All children appreciate reading aloud and storytelling

Their interests in signs, symbols, pictures and letters have increased The children have improved their vocabulary, their understanding of language, and their fonological consciousness.


Concl.  From the comments of the staff appear that the children are today better prepared for reading and writing and have developed their fantasy  A majority of the units have routines for reading aloud and storytelling  A minority of the staff still talks about training of the children’s concentration ability


Physical environment – facilitators The book corner  Easy accessible books  The number of books  The textual environment  Accessibility of computers and other media  Home and shopping environment 24

Let’s read a book project Many preschools are working with reading aloud and storytelling BUT they don’t follow up, reflect on and discuss the most important – the content This study is one out of a number of substudies conducted in order to develop and improve the systematic quality work in preschool in a Swedish municipality

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