Emergent Storybook Reading

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Emergent Storybook Reading

Emergent storybook reading is beneficial for both kindergarten and first grade students and is based on the research of Elizabeth Sulzby. In emergent storybook reading, a carefully selected text is introduced during the read aloud time. After hearing the story read aloud five times, multiple copies become available for students to “read” during independent reading. Kindergarten students participate in emergent storybook reading from August through December. First graders begin their year with this type of reading, but in September the emphasis switches to just right books.

Phase 1 - Book Selection

Book selection is critical for emergent storybook reading. The teacher must consider the characteristics listed below when choosing books for emergent storybook reading.

Emergent storybooks must:

  • have a strong, sequential storyline (e.g., The Snowy Day).

  • have clear illustrations that reflect the text (e.g., The Carrot Seed).

  • be a story that the children can relate to (e.g., Jamaica’s Find) or can easily understand (e.g., The Three Billy Goats Gruff).

  • be a book loved by the teacher because it will be read and listened to many times.

Some emergent storybooks may have repetitive language (e.g., Caps for Sale, The Gingerbread Man) but it should not be the primary focus of the text.

Although books like A Chair for my Mother, Brown Bear, and Good Night Moon are quality children’s books, they don’t meet the above criteria. These books can be used in other areas of the curriculum.

In selecting an emergent storybook title, the teacher will also need to consider if multiple copies of the book (at least 6) are available. The list below contains examples of titles commonly found in early childhood classrooms and school media centers. If multiple copies cannot be obtained, the title should not be used for emergent storybook reading.
Suggested Titles for Emergent Storybook Reading:

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone

Harry, the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Jamaica’s Find by Juanita Havill

Will I Have a Friend? by Miriam Cohen

Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

Koala Lou by Mem Fox

It’s Mine by Leo Lionni

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

Crictor by Tomi Ungerer

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper

Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

The Little Red Hen by Harriet Ziefert

Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob Ludwig Grimm

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Corduroy by Don Freeman

The Three Bears by Byron Barton

The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone

Phase 2Read Aloud

After the teacher has selected a book for emergent storybook reading, she reads the book to the whole class. The children may wish to “say something” as a way to deepen their understanding and connection to the book. However, accountable talk is not the focus of emergent storybook read alouds. The teacher should not pause for comments or questions during the reading. It is important that the children hear the book in it’s entirety, uninterrupted. The teaching is the reading. Children’s talk about the book may be addressed at the completion of the read aloud.

Teachers should read aloud each emergent storybook at least 5 times before it becomes part of the independent reading time. During the course of a week, the teacher can read more than one emergent storybook title by alternating titles each day. Only one title should be read at each read aloud sitting. A sample schedule for introducing emergent storybooks is below. By alternating books, children can be exposed to several books simultaneously.
Possible Schedule for Introducing Emergent Storybook Reading

Day of the Week






Week 1

Book 1

Book 2

Book 1

Book 2

Book 1

Week 2

Book 2

Book 1

Book 2

Book 1

Book 3

Week 3

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 3

Book 4

Week 4

Book 3

Book 4

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Phase 3 – Independent Reading

After children have heard the emergent storybooks at least 5 times, they will begin to read these books privately and in partnerships during independent reading. In emergent storybook reading, children are “reading” the pictures to approximate the text. In order to provide students with the opportunity to read these books every day, the children must have easy access to these books. The emergent storybooks must be in the children’s book baskets during independent reading and available around the room throughout the day. This ease of access is why multiple copies of these titles is necessary.

During independent reading, the teacher will confer with children as they read these emergent storybooks. The teacher’s goal is to coach these students and encourage them to do the following as they read:

  • add action

  • comment on the pictures using story or narrative language

  • connect the actions sequentially to tell a complete story (holding it all together)

  • use expression

  • problem-solve when they are able to read the words

This reading and coaching can be done in small groups in lieu of guided reading to directly support those students who are not yet ready for guided reading groups. However, this is only possible with many copies of multiple emergent storybook titles.

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