Books and Narrative Retells – why is being able to retell a narrative important for children?

Our North Brisbane Speech Therapists are talking about books and the importance of oral narrative retells this week. 

Books are an amazing resource to develop not only language comprehension and expression, but also to encourage children’s imagination and creativity. When reading books, we can not only engage children by asking them open-ended questions throughout the story; but through asking them to retell the story after, in their own words. Encouraging children to retell a story that they have heard supports their language and literacy development in many different ways. 






Retelling narratives supports comprehension of the narrative. Reading to your child is not effective if they are not listening or understanding the book.  By asking them to retell the story to you at the end, you are checking for their understanding. If they cannot recall the story to retell; they were potentially not listening or not able to comprehend what they were hearing. To ensure your child is attending to the book, use lots of affect (emotion) and engage them in the story through acting portions out or using toys to act out sequences. 



Expressive vocabulary



Throughout the book, ensure to support vocabulary understanding and development, by explaining any tier 2 words. Tier 2 words are high frequency words that are used across many different contexts, but may need explaining to understand and if they are not understood may change the way the text is comprehended.  For example humongous, terrific, lonely, cunning – if these words are not understood; it may change the way the sentence is understood..  Tier 1 one words are common, everyday words (cat, dog, party, good, house).  For more information on the tiers of vocabulary and robust language instruction; please click here for the link to a past blog. Book reading and retelling is a fantastic way to develop children’s vocabulary and teach words they may not otherwise understand or encounter. 



Receptive language



By asking open-ended questions and using blank’s levels of questions throughout reading the book; you can support children’s receptive language. You may ask; how does receptive language differ to comprehension?  Comprehension in this case, refers more to recalling the story and understanding the story. Receptive language is much larger than that. Receptive language refers to being able to comprehend and process information through language. It includes comprehending and answering questions, as well as following directions. 



Phonological awareness



Phonological awareness is an important skill in children to develop.  Early reading and spelling success is often linked due to its correlation with phonics or letter sounds.  It includes recognising sound patterns such as rhyme; knowledge of syllables and phonemes (sounds) within words, the ability to hear phonemes in the words and the ability to manipulate these sounds. While book reading, you can support your child to develop these skills by playing sound and word games through highlighting any rhyming words; asking them to clap out syllables in long words and asking them to identify the first/last sounds in words. 



Print awareness



Print awareness is the understanding that text or ‘print’ is specifically organised. It is the knowledge that we read from left to right, top to bottom; that words have letters and spaces happen between words; that books have a back and front cover; a title page, a back page and that the pages are numbered. Knowledge of this develops well before school and can be supported through reading and retelling books. 


How to support book retells at home:


Here is a simple version of how to engage your child in a book retelling activity at home.


  1. Select a book that has a good story – one that has a clear setting, characters, problem, events and ending. 
  2. Read the book together, engaging the child with affect
  3. Ask open-ended questions throughout the book – “who”, “what”, “where”,
    “Why”, “how”, “what might happen?” style questions.
  4. When the book is finished, ask them to tell you what they remember – support their retell by asking them ‘wh’ questions (“Where did it happen”, “Who was there?”, “What did they do?”, “What was the problem?”, “How were they feeling?”, “What happened next?”, “What happened at the end?”). 
  5. To further support the retell, you could draw pictures on a whiteboard or piece of paper as you go through the process. If your child struggles to engage in the retell using pictures, you could bring in toys as well.
  6. After the story is drawn – retell the story again using the pictures. 

For further information about book retelling or if you have concerns about your child’s ability to retell stories, please contact our lovely client care team on 3265 4495, visit our website at or email us at [email protected].


Emma Lefever

Speech Pathologist