Reading to children is considered one of the best activities for future success in developing language and literacy skills. Children’s experiences with books play an important role in preparing them to learn. Children who have been introduced to books and reading do much better in later development than children who are read to less frequently, whether it be from watching parents and siblings read for pleasure, reading aloud and creating their own stories with caregivers, or pointing to pictures in picture books and giving them a name. Children need to have their basic needs met for safety, food, shelter, and love. They also need the nourishment of books.
Children learn most from books when they are actively involved, through play, conversations, and from loving caregivers. Dialogic reading is designed to get children involved and enhance language and literacy skills. Dialogic reading is an interactive technique that encourages the child to become the storyteller over time. Instead of the parent reading the entire book cover to cover, conversations, or dialogues, are encouraged by using pictures in the story and the child’s imagination.
Dialogic reading is based upon three main techniques - asking "what" questions, asking open-ended questions, and expanding upon what the child says. These three techniques are designed to encourage children to talk more and give descriptions of what they see. Dialogic reading can be used for children of all ages but is most effective when a child has a greater amount of words for expressive vocabulary. Dialogic reading can also increase children’s vocabulary. For example, an engaged toddler having a simple back-and-forth exchange with a caregiver can learn about nine new words a day- that’s sixty three words per week!
Dialogic reading is a technique everyone can do-- it is simply children and adults having a conversation about a book. This type of interaction has derived from thousands of years of a specific human practice: oral storytelling. In many cultures still today, this is the predominant form of language and connecting the human experience. An oral storyteller does not use props, but makes use of language, facial expressions, gestures, body movements, and voice. Parents, caregivers and teachers can expand the storytelling experience by encouraging children to re-tell the story in their own way. Start with the characters in the story, but welcome the children’s ideas and let their imaginations guide them. Step back and enjoy as they recreate the story.
Resources for Caregivers:
Fred Rogers Center of the Early Learning Environment
Dialogic Reading with Katy Video
Dialogic Reading Video Series
From the National Center for Learning Disabilities
Dialogic Reading Prompts from Reading Rockets
Using the "PEER" and "CROWD" acronyms
Sample "CAR" Technique Handout
Sample handout from Allen County Public Library
National Storytelling Network
The NSN is a member-driven organization which offers direct services, publications, and educational opportunities designed to promote storytelling everywhere.