From the Research Files: Dialogic Reading - Proven Effective Methods

Did you know there is a specific way you should read to your child? Yes, read to them every day and yes, make it fun ... but did you know that how you read to them is as important as how often you read to them? There is a simple yet detailed, proven effective technique that works called dialogic reading.

Dialogic reading came out of research studies from the 1980s that resulted in an easy to follow plan for all socioeconomic classes. Read on to find out exactly what steps to take, but first: the results.

The why behind how often you read to them was proven in a study from 1985 by Barnes & Wells, which demonstrated that shared picture book reading significantly impacted how children read years later as well as affected their IQ scores many more years later. The studies concluded time spent on effective reading to children aged 1-3 years old has significant correlation to 5 year old language skills and 7 year old reading comprehension skills.

The next groundbreaking study from Grover Whitehurst in 1988 details the why behind how you read to them: the study found that reading to children in a specific way resulted in young (2-4 year old) children’s expressive vocabulary improved by a 6-month gain after just 4 weeks of practice! See this link for more specific details and other examples of testing:

Some great news from this research is that effectiveness was influenced neither by the socioeconomic status nor the education level of the reader, meaning anyone can teach this method. Everyone can help someone. Dialogic reading is simple: it is an adult and a child having a conversation about pictures or stories while reading together. The method is interactive and question-based by prompting recall, asking open-ended as well as specific questions and relating the material to the child’s experiences. These are steps for reading to children up to ~age 4:

  1. Ask “what” questions

  2. Follow answers with questions

  3. Repeat what the child says

  4. Mention a new word and help the child if needed

  5. Praise and encourage “Good job!” “Great speaking!”

  6. Follow the child’s interests

  7. Have fun!

Here is an example of using dialogic reading on the Bows to the Dress page in the Letter B section of Playroom Prep Section One.

Parent: What is this?

Child: A dress!

Parent: That’s right a dress! And what are these? What colors are they?

Child: Bows! That’s green. And yellow. And orange.

Parent: They are lovely colors: green, yellow and orange. Let’s count the bows.

Child and Parent: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!

Parent: Where have you seen people wear dresses?

Child: ummm..

Parent: Have you seen them maybe at … a birthday party?!

Child: Yes! A birthday party! And it has presents!

Parent: Yes! Birthday parties can have presents! With bows! Do you like birthday parties?

Child: Yes!

Parent: What do you like about the parties? and so on...

After age 4, it might be more appropriate to use just 3 steps:

  1. Ask open ended questions like “What do you see here?”

  2. Expand what the child says – repeat and add a few descriptive words, ask them to repeat you

  3. Have fun!

For those of you who already read this way to your children – Bravo! It sounds intuitive, probably because it’s interactive and fun, but to many it is not an obvious way to read together. Like so many things in life – eating well, exercising, keeping a clean home and full refrigerator -- progress requires a plan.

Playroom Prep gives you the plan to get your young child’s early learning off to a great start. Please reach out with any questions, thoughts or ideas. In the meantime, give dialogic reading a try and most important: remember to have fun!

#dialogicreading #learningtoread #teachingtoread #bestwaytoread #readwithkids #preschool

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