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  • Writer's pictureAlison McDonald

How To Read Dialogically With Your Child

Dialogic reading. Perhaps you’ve come across this word while reading through articles and websites and have wondered what it means. At its core, ‘dialogic’ simply refers to ‘dialogue’ – the act of discussing and talking about something with another person. Dialogic reading is reading that focuses on asking simple questions and following up with expanded communication. It helps our children become active storytellers, rather than passive participants.

Why do I love this type of reading? Simple! Dialogic reading increases engagement, and improves reading, literacy, and language skills. We know that formulating sound pre-literacy skills in the early years (before school) is integral for future scholastic success, and that exposure to books plays a significant role in this. We also know that it’s not just the quantity but quality of interaction with books that develops reading skills and enjoyment of books. Dialogic Reading is therefore a beautiful tool as it can be used by everyone – regardless of family structure, socio-economic status, or resource availability.

So, how do we do it?

Read through a simple book with your child at least once, so that you’re both aware of the story. Here, the adult usually reads and the child listens. Then swap roles! Let your child become the storyteller, and you the audience.

Next, we use the main Dialogic Reading technique for interaction, called the PEER sequence. It looks something like this:

  1. Prompt your child to say something about the book (anything)

  2. Evaluate their response (tell them if what they observed was right or wrong)

  3. Expand their response by adding more information to it

  4. Repeat the prompt to help your child learn from the expansion

Here’s an example of the PEER sequence using a page from a ‘Spot’ book:

Prompt: ‘What’s happening on this page?’

Child: ‘There’s birdies!’

Evaluate: ‘Yes, there are! They’re special birdies.’

Expand: ‘These birdies are called ‘penguins’.’

Repeat: ‘Can you say ‘penguins’?

We can increase our child’s active engagement in book reading by using further prompts within our PEER sequence, called ‘CROWD’ prompts. These involve:

  1. Completion prompts: where you leave a pause at the end of the sentence and encourage your child to fill it in. This is especially fun to use with books with repetitive lines or with rhyming words. For example, ‘We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we have to go…’

  2. Recall prompts: where we encourage our child to remember what already happened in the book. This helps children develop understanding of sequences and plots. For example; ‘Do you remember what was in Spot’s box?’ You can use recall prompts anywhere!

  3. Open-ended prompts: where we encourage our child to look at the picture (ideally in a detailed picture book) and ask them questions like ‘what’s happening in this picture?’

  4. Wh- prompts: where we use questions that begin with ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, why’ and ‘how’ using pictures in the book. For example, ‘what’s the name of this?’ while pointing to an object.

  5. Distancing prompts: where we ask our children to think about their own real life experiences with pictures or words in the book. For example, using our example from the Spot book, you could say, ‘Remember when we saw penguins at the zoo? They were very small and waddled like ducks’. These prompts help our children make connections between books and their own lives.

Dialogic Reading can seem a little confusing at first, and that’s okay. Don’t feel too overwhelmed! If you’re willing to give it a go, try and focus on the ‘PEER’ prompts until you’re confident. Then, you can pick one of the ‘CROWD’ prompts to explore in the book.

Our focus is always on the quality of book reading, and the most important thing is engaging with the book and letting your child have fun and enjoy the experience of reading.

Written by Jo

Certified Practising Speech Pathologist

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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