We’ve known for a long time that reading to children is critical in language development. However, we now know that the way in which we read to children is important also. Dialogic reading can be described as a conversation between an adult and a child (or children) about a book. It is a very powerful tool in language development, particularly vocabulary development. The goal in dialogic reading is for the child to move from being an active listener to a storyteller.
As with reading any book, start by having the child look at the cover and tell you what he thinks the book is about. Then read the book normally so that the child can become familiar with the story. In subsequent readings of the book, you can use dialogic reading. (Children enjoy repetition; repeated reading is another great technique to improve language skills.)
The method used in dialogic reading is known by the acronym PEER.
- Prompt—ask the child a “what” question about the book. What did you see on that page?
- Evaluate—either reinforce the child’s correct answer or guide the child to the correct answer. Yes, you saw a man on that page.
- Expand—expand the child’s answer with additional details. (You can provide the details right away or ask the child to provide more details before you expand the answer even more.) That man is a fireman, standing next to his fire truck.
- Repeat—have the child repeat your phrase or part of your phrase. Can you say “fireman”?
Try to ask a variety of questions instead of just asking “what happened” over and over again. The acronym CROWD provides suggestions for types of questions to ask.
- Completion—have the child complete your sentence about the story. The fireman is standing next to his _________. (truck)
- Recall—ask the child to recall a detail from the story. What did the fireman do when he heard the alarm?
- Open-ended—ask the child a question without a specific answer. What do you think the fireman is going to do next?
- WH questions—who, what, where, when, why (and how). Where did the fireman go in his truck?
- Distancing—ask the child to relate the story to something in his own life. Have you seen a fire truck? Where did you see it? What was it like?
And, of course, after reading and discussing the story, have the child give you an overview of it. This will help you to make sure that the child is comprehending what you are reading. Most importantly, read, read, read (and have fun with it).