learning during read-alouds: oral language development

Sometimes, simple is better.  Sometimes, more choices make us more confused.oral language development

If Maddy, Owen, and Cora were shown an amazing pallet of face paints and were able to choose anything in the world they wanted designed on their cheeks or arms, I’m betting they’d all balk. Either it would take 30 minutes for them to decide what they wanted, or they wouldn’t be able to choose at all.

However, if they given the option of choosing one of 5-10 designs, most likely they’d have no problem at all making a decision.

I know the same is true for many parents when it comes to teaching their children. They don’t know what to do or where to begin, and especially when they stumble upon a resource online, like this blog–or many others like it–they move into freakout mode because it’s like a total overload.

So today I’m going with something really simple–I’m talking the simplest of simple.

This is just a little, teeny something parents can do during read-alouds, or any time of the day, actually, that might not seem like much, but it actually has big pay-offs for children’s language development.

It’s a starting point.  No reason to freak out, just a reason to celebrate words, language, and literacy.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Oral Language Development During Read-Alouds:  Before, during, and after reading, we have a captive audience during read-alouds. Why not use this time to model the use of rich and descriptive language?

Oral Language can–and should–be developed at all times of the day, but it’s especially important to work on oral language development during book reading. We really don’t want to get into the habit of interrupting the flow of a story with a “teachable moment” comment every other page. But we can make meaningful comments and share our observations using “rich and descriptive language”.

oral language development

Cora quickly chose Ariel out of the few Disney designs she was offered.

You can develop Oral Language by saying:

  • I notice that the little girl in the picture is not playing in a safe way. She should sit down on her swing . . . instead of: That girl needs to sit!
  • Arthur’s family looks like they are very prepared for their vacation with all of the supplies they have packed in their car. . .  instead of: Look at all of the stuff they shoved in their car!
  • Wow. Lily has a doll, a yellow shoe, a old and torn baseball hat, a half-eaten apple, and an unfinished puzzle on her bedroom floor. . . instead of: Her room is a mess!
  • I can’t believe that Bear can’t fit in his cave! His bottom’s too big and the entrance to the cave is just too small! . . . instead of: Bear is too fat!

oral language development

oral language development


You can also:

  • ask open-ended questions to your child, repeat his answer, and build upon them by adding or expanding their response;
  • use follow-up questions to help your child expand her response if she answers with a one- or two-word response;
  • model active listening by giving your child ample time to answer your questions.

Developing Oral Language during read-alouds–or any time!–is easy. All we have to remember is that even though our children are young, they can still benefit tremendously by hearing the use of rich and varied language.

Many thanks to Beauchat, Blamey, & Walpole’s “Building Preschool Children’s Language and Literacy One Storybook at a Time,” in September 2009’s The Reading Teacher for inspiration on information in this post.)

So let’s start noticing words–and continue talking about it!

This is another simple but totally important reading comprehension strategies as part of my Read-Aloud Learning series. For other ways to help develop kiddos’ oral language development, check out:





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