Early reading can set your child up for a love of literature later in life. Reading at an early age also helps children develop empathy, speech skills, vocabulary, and literacy awareness. All of the skills young readers take away from their earliest experiences go on to influence how they interact with reading in the future.
As a parent, you can help establish a love of reading in your little one by practicing a technique called dialogic reading.
Dialogic reading is all about sharing a conversation with your child about the text you’re reading aloud. It helps children build their vocabularies and develop what experts call “verbal fluency” — the ability to speak clearly and retrieve words and other information from memory at will.
One of the issues young readers have is struggling to comprehend text that they’ve read. Often, this comes from the following model:
Parents or teachers take out a book, read it entirely, and then ask a child a few questions about what they read. The child may have a general idea of the story’s theme, or recall some small details, but they forget most, if not all of it, as soon as the book is put away.
Dialogic reading is an interactive process. It reshapes the way parents foster a love of reading with early readers.
In dialogic reading, the unfolding story is an active conversation.
There are three levels of dialogic reading to know:
The entire process of dialogic reading is meant to be fun, interactive, and explorative. It helps early readers build connections with the text and develop skills naturally. For young readers who are still developing speech skills, dialogic reading is a great way to encourage them to form new sentences and build their vocabulary.
If you want to use dialogic reading with your child, here are some of our top tips for using this strategy.
CROWD is an easy-to-remember acronym that helps you remember what types of questions to ask:
It’s important to make sure dialogue is focused on the child. While you’ll take the lead, they should be the ones filling in the blanks. For example, a prompt might be, “Yes, you’re right, the princess was wearing a dress. What else was she wearing?”
Encourage them to expand upon details in a friendly, nonjudgmental way. It’s not about getting the answer to questions right or wrong. It’s about helping them identify information in the text and learning from what they’re reading.
Identify keywords in the story that you’d like your child to build upon during your dialogic reading. For example, if you were reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” you may draw words like butterfly, cocoon, and sun.
These words make it easy for you to have more discussions later. You may talk about the sun, and how it helped the hungry caterpillar, or have your child draw their own butterfly and describe it.
Avoid falling into a pattern of repeat questions. Children will quickly catch on and treat the reading more like homework than a conversation. Rather than just quizzing them, ask questions that encourage you both to talk about the story.
You don’t want early readers to get discouraged by getting answers wrong. Instead of saying, “No, that’s not right,” try something like, “Hmm, are you sure?” and offering some hints to the right response.
There are three tiers of vocabulary for different levels of dialogic reading.
Each of these word groups will vary by age. Early readers will have more tier 1 words than their 3 words, but these words will increase as they get older and develop their skills.
All of these tiers are important, however, because they come together to create a cohesive story.
To really help children remember what they’ve read, it’s helpful to use the words in new ways in future conversations. You can reference the story itself, as well as just use the words in everyday dialogue.
Bilingual readers can benefit greatly from reading stories in both languages. Consider reading the same story in both English and their target language, like Spanish. As children’s vocabularies grow, you can even work on translating sentences or specific words from the text together.
Another great strategy is reading in one language and having a dialogue about the story in another. This helps students understand both languages better and develop fluency in both thinking and speech.
With these strategies in mind, you can help your child become a confident reader who not only loves learning but loves sharing their thoughts, too!