Increasing vocabulary: engaging and interactive reading

Nice and cozy on the couch, together under the duvet, in a corner on the floor or in a homemade tent; Being read to, what child doesn’t enjoy that? Posters in libraries and leaflets that you receive from the child health clinic are clear: being read to is important for children’s language development. By reading in an engaging and interactive manner, you increase your child’s involvement and vocabulary.

Receptive and productive vocabulary

Receptive vocabulary refers to the words that someone already understands, but does not (yet) use themselves. Productive vocabulary includes the words that someone also uses when he/she speaks. A child who hears a new word stores it receptively after hearing it a few times, but using the word productively usually takes longer. Children’s receptive vocabulary is therefore larger than their productive vocabulary. By reading interactively, you can repeat a word that may be new to your child in different ways. By offering the word in different ways, your child can learn it more easily. In addition, engaging reading aloud helps a child better understand the context surrounding the word.

Fascinating reading

The children listen with their mouths open to a story that is read in a fascinating way, no longer aware of what is happening around them. The story lives! This ensures great involvement in reading, but also a clearer context when learning new words. For example, a child will be able to imagine the word ‘grumble’ or ‘dissatisfied’ more easily if it is read aloud in a low, slow tone. But how do you do that, read in an engaging way?

Melodic reading

Many children’s books are written in such a way that they can be read aloud melodically. Long and short sentences are alternated and rhyme or semi-rhyme is regularly used. Or, for example, a different font makes it clear that emphasis should be placed on a word. By not reading too quickly, you give yourself time to look ahead with your eyes to the sentence to come. This makes it easier to read the sentences dynamically and melodically.

Reading with expression

Reading with expression is reading with feeling. By looking carefully at the punctuation marks in the story (and reading ahead in your head) you can read the sentences with more expression. The scared monster, the friendly child and the evil witch will then come to life even more for the children. In addition , the children not only see from the illustration what the word ‘scared’ looks like, they also hear what the word sounds like. This makes it easier for them to master the word. Especially when it is possible to use voices in the story. It can help to give not all characters, but two main characters, for example, their own voice. This makes it easier to remember which voice to use.

Interactive reading

Interactive reading means, as the word suggests, reading aloud with room for interaction. When reading aloud, your child is not just a spectator who listens silently, but can participate. This also makes it easier for an active child to keep his/her attention on the story and increases the child’s vocabulary.

Tips for interactive reading

Interactive reading therefore promotes the child’s attention to the story and helps stimulate language development. But how do you do that, read aloud interactively?

Toddlers and toddlers

Books for toddlers and toddlers contain many pictures, sometimes without text, sometimes with individual words, sometimes with short sentences. Toddlers enjoy reading the same book dozens of times. The first few times you can name most of the pictures yourself. For booklets without text, make sure that you continue to use the same words. After reading a few times, your toddler will be able to say some words themselves, if you give him/her enough time to think about it. After reading the book a number of times (this can even be ten times) using the same words, you can let your child ‘read aloud.’ You then add new words to the words he/she names. For example, if there is a picture of a cow in the meadow and your toddler says ,cow, after reading it a few times, you can add, ,Yes, there is the cow. In the meadow., After reading aloud a few times, your toddler can also produce the word ‘wei’ and it is time for the next addition. ,The cow is eating grass in the meadow. He is grazing.,

Toddlers and preschoolers

Books for toddlers and preschoolers often contain longer sentences in which difficult words are regularly used. The pictures in the books help you understand those difficult words. While reading aloud, you can ask your child to point out on the picture what you are currently reading aloud. For example, if the book says, ,I don’t remember, said the duck sadly., you can have your child point to the sad duck in the picture and have the child also make a sad face. To better remember the new word ‘sad’, you can link it to a word that your child already knows. ‘Sad’ or ‘needs to cry’ for example.

Another fun way of interactive reading is asking questions between reading. This will make your child more involved in the story. An additional advantage is that the child works on developing concepts. Examples of questions you can ask are:

  • Why do you think duck is sad?
  • What will duck do now?
  • Could anyone help duck?


Suitable books

One book lends itself more easily to interaction than another. A number of book titles that are very suitable for reading with interaction:

  • HervĂ© Tullet, A book. In this book, concepts such as left, right, high, low, shaking and blowing are presented in a playful way. The painted balls move in all directions in the book when the book is shaken or turned upside down.
  • Gareth Lucas, Kirsteen Robson, Ruth Russell, Search and counting book. The book uses talking bubbles to provide tips for questions that the reader can ask. The children can look for differences and similarities on the colorful pages, on which they discover new things every time. The pages are suitable for a question game, where the child or adult can take turns coming up with a question.
  • Max Veldhuijs, Frog and his friends. In several stories by Max Veldhuijs, which are collected in this book, the text in the book is well supported by the illustrations, so that children can clearly point out what is being read from the illustrations.
  • Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler, The Gruffalo. This book, which is written in rhyme, makes beautiful use of repetition. This allows children to quickly complete parts of sentences while reading the book.


read more

  • Increase vocabulary while playing outside

Leave a Comment