Most parents read to their children as often as they can. Children get more from this exercise when they are actively involved rather than just passively listening. With this in mind, researchers have developed a method of reading known as Dialogic Reading. Using this method, the adult encourages the child to actually become the story teller while the adult takes on the role of listener and becomes the child's audience.
Dialogic reading is all about questions and answers and three main techniques are employed by the adult participant in the reading session.
First of all, begin by asking plenty of questions pre-fixed with, "What?" For example, indicate a picture in the book and ask the child, "What's this called?" Confirm your child's answer is correct by repeating it back to them; "Yes, it's a dog."
Now expand on the answer the child has given you. For example; "Yes, it's a dog. A big, black dog." Then you can continue the conversation by expanding further like this; "What a naughty dog! What's he doing? Yes, he's stealing those sausages."
Open ended questions
These questions demand more thought and encourage children to be imaginative with their answers. There are no right or wrong responses.
When the first three steps are established you can begin to introduce questions which encourage your child to give his own opinion; "What do you think?" etc. Always give plenty of encouragement and praise to build your child's confidence and always make sure you're both having fun.
Dialogic reading can be used for children of all ages but has proven to be most effective when a child has a minimum of 50 words of expressive vocabulary. When reading to a baby, you can ask a question, pause and then give the answer whilst pointing to the picture concerned. This helps the baby to learn new vocabulary and understand that making conversation is a two way thing.
From aged 19 to 24 months children experience a "vocabulary spurt" and can learn anything up to nine new words each day. Dialogic reading capitalises on this stage in the child's development. Research has proven that using the dialogic reading method really does work. Children who have been read to in this way can jump months ahead of their average reading age in just a few weeks.
About Alison Page
Alison is a freelance writer and author. She is a member of the UK national panel of dressage judges, holds a degree in Equine Science and a Diploma in Business Studies.