How you read to children is just as important as how much you read.
Dialogic reading is an interactive technique based on the extensive research of Grover J. Whitehurst, Ph.D. This technique encourages adults to prompt children with questions and engage them in discussions while reading to them. 1
Dialogic reading happens when the adult becomes the listener, the questioner and the audience for the child. The goal is to help your child become the story teller. The more actively involved the child is in telling the story, the more they learn from what they are reading with you.
Every time you read with your child, let them do more of the storytelling, while you do less.
The best books to read dialogically with your child are those that have rich, detailed pictures and are chosen based on your child interests.
Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead in their language development than children who have been read to traditionally. One of the hardest things to master when a child enters school is the ability to read a text, understand the meaning and details enough to answer questions.
The more practise the child has doing this at a young age while reading with a parent, the more capable they will be at understanding and using this skill later.
How do I read dialogically?
One way to help your child be the story teller is to follow the PEER Sequence:
Prompt the child to say something about the book. “What is this?” (As you point to the fire truck)
Evaluate the child’s response. “That’s right- you got it!”
Expand the child’s response by rephrasing and adding information to it. “It’s a red fire truck!”
Repeat the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion. “Can you find the red fire truck?” Or, “Can you say fire truck?”
How to prompt a child
Dialogic reading is about having a conversation with your child. To support this, there are five types of prompts you can use. Use the CROWD sequence to remember what they are:
Completion: Ask the child to finish your sentence. This works best with books that repeats or rhymes. “Larry the cat sat on his ___” (mat)
Recall: Ask questions that require the child to remember parts of the book. “What did Fred bring on his first day of school?
Open-ended: Ask questions that encourage the child to use more than a few words to answer. “How do you think Peter is feeling?”
Wh-: Ask what, why, when, where questions. “What is this called?”
Distancing: Ask questions that make the child think about their own lives. “Have you ever been to a parade like Judy?”
Children enjoy dialogic reading, as it allows them to be engaged and an equal part of the reading experience. They get to add to and lead the conversation.
Be mindful not to use too many prompts, but think about your child’s ability and interests and let the reading and storytelling flow naturally. Follow their lead and keep it fun!
Information compiled by the Early Literacy Specialists at the Parent Resource Centre. For additional information and resources, visit www.parentresource.ca
Reference Whitehurst, 1992
Dialogic Reading: A Shared Picture Book Reading Intervention for Preschoolers by Andrea A. Zevenbergen and Grover J. Whitehurst