Effective Practice Guides

Comprehension and Text Structure: Do


Try the following practices with preschool-aged children. Use as much of the child’s home or tribal language as possible. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.


  • Help children comprehend stories by talking with them as stories are shared and by asking open-ended questions and responding to the children’s comments and questions.
  • During a second reading of a book, prompt children’s thinking and verbal engagement by asking questions about characters’ motivations and feelings and what will happen next. Share your own reasoning to show how people use information from a story.
  • Plan the environment to support independent story readings and retellings (e.g., reading aloud to a group of stuffed animals or retelling stories using a flannel board and pieces or puppets.
  • Make audio and video recordings of children retelling stories or telling new stories of their own creation. Place the recordings where children can access them.
  • Place information books in different parts of the environment or setting (e.g., put books about shells near a seashell collection, books about building houses in the block area, cookbooks in the dramatic play area, and bring books about nature outside).

Home Visitors

Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas.

  • Talk with parents about their child’s experiences with books, storytelling, and retelling, as well as their own experiences.
    • Keep in mind that some children and families come from rich oral language traditions but have little experience with print and books, and some languages are not written down. Knowing this information can help you and parents plan experiences with storytelling, retelling, and reading books that are appropriate for the child, build on the child’s home language and literacy background, and support the child in learning English.
  • Share strategies for reading books to their child. For example:
    • Ask questions that have more than one answer rather than questions that have one word or right/wrong answers
    • Ask questions that make the child think
    • Ask the child to act out the story to help them remember how the story goes
  • Share strategies for using wordless books for storytelling and retelling. Suggest books that can be found at the local library or your program’s lending library.

1California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010), 146–150, Comprehension and Analysis of Age-Appropriate Text, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pdf [PDF, 8.8MB].

2National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (NCECDTL), “Planned Language Approach: Book Knowledge and Print Concepts” (Washington, DC: Author, 2019), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/dtl-pla-book-knowledge-print-concepts.pdf.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: December 3, 2019