Dialogic Reading means turning the process of reading a story into an interactive experience by asking simple questions and talking about the pictures in a storybook.
When reading a story using Dialogic Reading techniques, the adult and child switch roles as the child becomes the storyteller and the parent the listener. Sharing a book, in fact, becomes a meaningful dialogue, giving the child meaningful opportunities to practice and learn new words. It is an especially powerful strategy because there is no need to read any words; anyone, regardless of their own language or literacy level, can engage in Dialogic Reading by talking about the pictures on the page.
Raising A Reader MA promotes Dialogic Reading, developed by Dr. Grover Whitehurst, in part because it is one of very few interventions found to help young children build vocabulary and other pre-literacy skills (What works for early language and literacy development: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Intervention Strategies. Chrisler, A. and Ling T. Child Trends Fact Sheet. June 2011.)
How does Dialogic Reading work?
Two main components characterize Dialogic Reading: (1) what questions the adult asks, and (2) how s/he frames these questions and responds to answers. Two simple mnemonic devices serve as reminders for each of these strategies.
First mnemonic device, PEER, instructs to:
Prompt the child with a question, such as “What animal is that?”
Evaluate the response with praise and correction. “You’re right, it is a dog!” or “It looks like a cat, but it’s a dog.”
Expand by asking more questions, “What color is the dog?”
Repeat, “Good job! It is a white dog with black spots. That’s called a Dalmatian. Can you say Dalmatian?
These simple steps allow the child to use a variety of words, to increase their self-esteem as they know they’ve answered well, and practice new vocabulary and sentence structure introduced by the adult.
The second mnemonic device, CROWD, specifies what types of questions, or prompts, effectively begin the interaction:
Completion prompts ask the child to fill in the blank. These are especially useful in books with rhyme or repetition. For example, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you ____?”
Recall prompts activate the child’s memory for the story and plot. “What were some of the animals we met in this book?”
Open-ended questions give the child the chance to use rich vocabulary beyond “yes” or “no.” “What is your favorite animal? What do you like about it?”
Wh questions start with words like who, what, when, and where, and also build vocabulary. “What animal is that? Where does it live? What sound does it make?”
Distancing prompts help the child relate the book to his or er own life. “We went to the zoo! What animals did we see there?”
Want to learn more? Watch our ten minute Dialogic Reading video, Storytime: How to share books with your child.
You can also download Dialogic Reading Tip Sheets from our website. These early literacy resources offer ideas for using Dialogic Reading strategies with specific, high-quality children’s books.