We all know that reading aloud to young children is very important. Children literally soak up the words like sponges when they are read aloud to on a regular basis. Usually that involves the adult doing the reading and most of the talking. So, how do we adults take a step back and let the children supply the words? One way is to use “Dialogic Reading”. This is a strategy that can be used to give children an opportunity to be more of a part of the early reading process. Think about the word “dialogic”. It comes from the word “dialogue”. Dialogue means to talk. Therefore, dialogic reading involves children talking about books. The adult becomes the facilitator for interacting with the book.
According to The Word Gap: The Early Years Make the Difference (Colker, 2014), “by three years of age, there is a 30 million word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families”. Further, “Vocabulary development in the preschool years impacts children’s later reading skills and school success.” Children’s vocabularies develop not only from listening to stories but also from interacting with others and books. Dialogic reading can help support closing this word gap and increase chances of children’s reading success.
In the book Supercharged Storytimes: An Early Literacy Planning and Assessment Guide, the authors state that, “Dialogic reading is an interactive reading technique that uses the practice of asking children questions about a book. These questions encourage talk about the story and the pictures.” (Campana, Mills, & Ghoting, 2016). The framework for dialogic reading comes from D.S. Arnold and Grover J. Whitehurst. One strategy that can be used involves the acronym PEER (see below)
Prompt the children to tell you something about the book by asking a question.
Evaluate the children’s responses by saying something like, “That’s right!”
Expand the children’s responses by repeating what they said and adding information to it.
Repeat the beginning question for the children and give them a chance to answer with the expanded detail.
Along with the PEER strategy, there is also the CROWD strategy. Grover J. Whitehurst wrote an article “Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers” published by Reading Rockets at http://www.readingrockets.org/article/dialogic-reading-effective-way-read-preschoolers. He outlines the 5 types of prompts that work well for use with dialogic reading. They include:
Completion prompts: provide a sentence and let the children fill in the last word (this technique works well for rhymes).
Recall prompts: ask the children questions about what has happened previously in the story.
Open-ended prompts: ask the children to describe what is happening in a story.
Wh-prompts: asking the children questions that start with who, what, when, where, and why.
Distancing prompts: ask the children to relate a piece of the story to things they have experienced.
Learn more about the PEER and CROWD strategies at: https://raisingareaderma.org/program/dialogic-reading/
Make sure to give children plenty of wait time when they are responding. Our adult brains can process so much faster than a child’s brain, that we sometimes forget and rush through when if we just gave a few more seconds, the child would have come up with a great response on their own. So, take a quiet, deep breath and count to ten at the very least. Counting to 20 may be even better.
What kind of book works for dialogic reading? Any children’s picture book will work for dialogic reading including wordless or nearly wordless picture books. Better yet, books the children have heard before are excellent choices. Repetitive reads are very popular with young children. One book I recently used with a group of children was Rain! by Linda Ashman. Here is an example from the beginning of this wonderful book.
As you can see, the first 2 pages show an illustration of the setting with no text. I began with asking the children:
- What do you see happening?
- Where could this story be taking place?
- What do you do on rainy days?
Here is an interaction between the two main characters near the end of the book. I prompted the children with:
- What is the boy doing?
- Who is he pretending to be?
- Why did he do that?
- What do you think will happen next?
A great video that shows a dialogic reading interaction can be found at: http://community.fpg.unc.edu/connect-modules/resources/videos/video-6-8
Consider giving dialogic reading a try the next time you are reading to a child. You might also see it modeled at a Fontana Regional Library Storytime the next time you visit one.