To start simply, dialogic reading is a technique developed over time through the research of Grover Whitehurst. It encourages adults to read with children, and prompt them with questions regarding the text and the overall story – in essence, creating a dialogue around reading (and making it an experience).
While different reading approaches do work with different children, tests of language development have shown that pre-“school-aged” children whose parents/caregivers use dialogic reading are better prepared for school than children who have been read to in a more traditional way.
The fundamental idea behind dialogic reading is called “PEER,” and breaks out as such:
Prompt the child to say something about the book
Evaluate the child’s response
Expand the child’s response by rephrasing / adding new information
Repeat the prompt to make sure the child learned from expansion
The sequence can play out in numerous ways, but it usually is something like this:
- Parent and child reading a book about dogs.
- Picture of dog appears on a page.
- Parent: “What is that?” (The prompt)
- Child: “A dog!”
- Parent: “Yes, that’s right” (evaluation). “It’s a furry white dog.” (expansion) “The dog is white, what color is your teddy bear?” (repeat)
There are different types of prompts to use – for example, rhyming books tend to be better for completion prompts, where the child can understand the flow of words and fill in the blank. There is also a value to re-reading a familiar story a few times, as that opens the door for “recall prompts,” where you ask the child “Do you remember what happened to the yellow bus in this story? [Child responds] That’s right, it got stuck!”
The overall key is that you want the process to be fun for the child. This is not a quiz and you’re not testing their reading comprehension skills. You’re helping them engage with books and become storytellers themselves. Encouraging, rather than correcting a child’s dialogue will help him or her become a more confident reader and writer. Children should look forward to the chance to read with their parents every night – not only will this foster a love of reading itself, but this interactive time will strengthen the personal bond you have with your child, and may give you a glimpse into how creative the developing mind can be!
Final tip: sometimes parents believe you need to use dialogic reading for every book and the entirety of the book. That is certainly one approach, but you could also alternate – a few pages you do together, and then you remain in the room and encourage them to read the next few pages themselves. No one approach is ideal; it will vary by the age of the child, by the book, and may even vary by the day. Dialogic reading, though, should be at least a partial component of your overall early literacy and vocabulary development approach – because, let’s face it, kids will love reading even more if they are a part of the story!