Promoting language development via shared reading



Partners and collaborators

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics; University of York; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds City Council; Lydgate Infant School, Sheffield; The Rainbow Factory creative arts play centre, Leeds; National Literacy Trust


The aim of this project is to determine how shared reading promotes child language development, and use this knowledge to make it an effective language boosting tool for children from all social and economic backgrounds. We will first determine how parents from different social/economic backgrounds use language boosting behaviours during shared reading. We will then create four targeted interventions, each focused on a particular language boosting behaviour, and investigate how they are implemented by parents from different backgrounds, and how they affect children's language development. We will explore what influences parents' decisions to read or not to read with their children, in order to work out why parents may be unwilling to read with their children and to identify how to make reading a more enjoyable experience. Across the project, we will study a range of language skills, covering the core language abilities that are essential for learning to read and write in school.


Our target stakeholders are parents, practitioners (e.g. speech and language therapists, health visitors, early years educators), policy-makers in early years education, and researchers: a) The finding that short-term reading interventions do not deliver an improvement in language acquisition should be taken forward by researchers, to determine how long and intensive book reading interventions should be to engender change in children’s language. It should also influence the decisions of policy-makers considering which interventions to support. b) The finding that interventions are likely to more successful if they are individualized to consider the unique perspective of each family should be taken into account in the design of early years interventions by researchers and practitioners. c) The finding that we can encourage disadvantaged families to better engage in interventions, by using a few simple recruitment and retention strategies, should influence the design and implementation of interventions by practitioners and researchers. d) The finding that parental input to children with DLD during reading contained richer language than during free play, but that a substantial minority of children with DLD showed extremely low interest in reading, should be taken into account when practitioners (especially speech and language therapists) are choosing interventions for clinical populations.

Publications and outputs

Davies, C., McGillion, M., Rowland, C., & Matthews, D. (2019) Can inferencing be trained in preschoolers using shared book reading? A randomised controlled trial of parents’ inference-eliciting questions on oral inferencing ability. Journal of Child Language, 47(3), 655 - 679.

Project website