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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License


The Storytelling for Home Enrichment of Language and Literacy Skills (SHELLS) approach uses family storytelling and book-making activities to promote children’s language and literacy skills. This approach was developed to assist practitioners who work with families to promote children’s development by optimizing the powerful influence of children’s natural environments and their family relationships, culture, interests, conversations, and interaction. SHELLS is an evidence-based early language and literacy approach with three primary aims: (a) to increase parent–child conversation and narratives, (b) to create meaningful literacy materials, and (c) to encourage continuing language and literacy activities for children at home. The focus on promoting parent–child conversation is rooted in the evidence that the amount of speech to which children are exposed influences their language ability independent of income. Bookmaking as an intervention has been effectively implemented in the home, with positive outcomes for children. Finally, the shared-reading literature demonstrates that parents can be instructed in the use of strategies that facilitate children’s language development to improve child outcomes. SHELLS activities elicit parent–child conversation and storytelling, use simple technology to help participants develop home-made books, and provide parents with evidence-based strategies for scaffolding children’s language development. The SHELLS process for making books involves seven basic steps: (a) Planning ahead with the family to encourage parents to generate ideas, with child participation, about book topics; (b) encouraging parent–child conversation and interest in the topic; (c) illustrating the story through pictures or drawings; (d) facilitating written captions from words or sentences in the parent–child narrative; (e) helping organize and make the book; (f) observing the parent and child using the book; and (g) leaving the finished book. SHELLS has been implemented effectively with Migrant Head Start families, families of children with disabilities, and families from a variety of cultures including Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (Boyce et al., 2010; Boyce, Innocenti, Roggman, Jump Norman, & Ortiz, 2010; Boyce et al., 2017; Tanaka, Boyce, Chinn & Murphy, 2020).

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