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Dialogic Reading: Engaging Your Child and Building Language Skills During Story Time
Nowadays at baby showers, many parents-to-be are requesting that guests bring a book that is signed with an inspirational or loving note instead of a card containing well-wishes.
Most parents and caretakers are well aware that reading to their children is beneficial, but what many parents may not realize is that by simply changing your mindset from “reading to your child” to “reading with your child,” parents can easily engage their children more effectively during story time.
The concept of dialogic reading focuses on just this by incorporating developmental language concepts at the same time as foundational literacy concepts. Many may not have heard this term before, but this is a merely fancy moniker for an evidence-based process (meaning studies have found it to be beneficial) that can be incorporated easily into the flow of bedtime stories or summertime reading sessions – in fact, you may already use some techniques listed below!
There are two important acronyms to remember when it comes to dialogic reading: PEER and CROWD.
Let’s take a look and break each one down:
Prompt your child to answer a question or talk about a picture
Evaluate your child’s response (are they correct or incorrect?)
Expand your child’s response (add extra detail)
Repeat the prompt to make sure the child has learned the expansion correctly (ask them to say what you say)
Does this seem overwhelming? Here’s a few helpful examples:
Imagine that you and your child are looking through a book and the current page has an illustration of many different toys and games (balls, jump ropes, bikes, blocks, etc.). Your child is focusing in on the sports section. You could point to the basketball and ask, “What is this?” (a prompt). When your child labels the object (“ball”), you would say, “That’s right (evaluation), it’s a basketball (expansion). Now it’s your turn to say “basketball!” (repetition).
Now that we’ve broken down PEER, let’s take a look at CROWD. CROWD is another acronym to remember the different types of prompts that you can use to engage your child. It stands for the following:
Completion: have your child fill in the blank; leave the end off of your sentence and see if they can finish it correctly. This is especially useful during rhyming stories or repetitive stories. For example, “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them __________.”
Recall: perfect to use at the end of the story to prompt your child to talk about what happened in their own words. For example, “What happened to the green eggs and ham at the end of the story?”
Open-ended prompts: this works well when used with pictures and illustrations, especially those that contain a lot of detail (some of my favorites are the Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer).
Wh-Questions: Ask your child questions about the story that contain the wh-question words: who, what, when, where, why. For example, “Who is this person?” “Where are they going?” “Why do you think they’re going there?”
Distancing prompts: These help children form mental connections from the book to real life experiences that they may have already been a part of. For example, when reading a book about different animals, you could prompt your child to recall what they remember about a previous trip: “Remember when we went to the zoo? Did we see zebras like the ones in this book? What was your favorite animal?”
If this sounds like too much to remember while reading to your child, no need to worry! Incorporating even one of these techniques can be so very beneficial during story time. It’s my personal opinion as a speech-language pathologist that asking wh-questions during story time is one of the best prompts to use because it incorporates so many skills! Simply answering a question incorporates comprehension and understanding – comprehending the question that you’ve asked them, as well as comprehension of the story details. There are also so many different expressive language components like describing objects, sentence completion (which involves putting words in the correct order, as well as putting their thoughts into words). All of these can lead to an increase in your child’s vocabulary, which can also help them academically. It’s also important to mention that books are a great low-cost resource, as well! They can be found at many second-hand stores for pennies on the dollar, or they can be simply checked out from the library for free. As you can see, engaging your child in dialogic reading can help to put the “fun” in fundamental!
Morgan, P. L., & Meier, C. R. (2008). Dialogic Reading’s Potential to Improve Children’s Emergent Literacy Skills and Behavior. Preventing school failure: alternative education for children and youth, 52(4), 11–16. https://doi.org/10.3200/PSFL.52.4.11-16
Kristen LaBeau is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist who works in the Michigan region for Total Education Solutions. She has been practicing since 2016 and has worked exclusively in schools whose populations have been comprised of bilingual students. In her spare time, she enjoys storm chasing with her husband, quiet mornings with coffee, and spending time with her cat Rusty.