Dialogic Reading and traditional reading

In traditional reading, the adult reads and the child listens passively whereas in Dialogic Reading the child actively takes the role of protagonist. Dialogic reading, a form of shared reading, can be used to increase young children’s expressive vocabulary. It focuses on adults sharing the book reading experience with children. The aim is to shift the interaction and conversation from being adult-led to child-led. Dialogic reading techniques focus on open-ended questions and expanding on children’s comments and ideas regarding the book being shared. The program is based on encouraging children’s participation, providing feedback, and adjusting verbal interactions based on children’s ability.

Dialogic reading focuses on expanding young children’s expressive vocabulary through questioning. Expressive vocabulary is directly related to acquiring print vocabulary. Expressive vocabulary skills are a prerequisite for proficient reading because they are required for a child to comprehend the text being read, while poor oral vocabulary skills negatively affect children’s reading skills. This is important because young children’s oral language skills are accurate predictors of later reading success.

The parent or the teacher rely on their own experience to select books they consider adequate for Dialogic Reading, based on the age of the child and the subjective reading ability. The books are then leafed through and read by the the adult, the most typical case being, the parent who leafs through and reads a book the night before sleep. Other times, especially with children of 8 years or more, the child reads autonomously and subsequently starts a discussion around the book with the adult.

Whether the child browses and reads independently or the adult browses and reads the story to the child, in both cases the approach to the story, its contents and images, from the child’s point of view is passive. This means that the child “receives” the story and the images and elaborates them in his own interpretation and imagination, within the boundaries of his or her vocabulary knowledge.

This is certainly not a problem, indeed it is perfectly fine. But the interesting aspect that Dialogic Reading is that it introduces the opportunity of starting a conversation with the adult around the story. nd this introduces a big, highly relevant new factor because the child comes in contact with a much more evolute vocabulary, that of the adult, and also realises that the story can be interpreted, discussed, evaluated, developed in unlimited directions, associated with one’s own experience and ultimately related to the other’s points of view and/or thoughts. This opens up a whole new world, it adds an improvement aspect which stimulates and involves various activities, ultimately reverberating on the whole development of the child.

In Dialogic Reading the adult reads a paragraph and immediately afterwards stops and actively involves the child, asking how he or she imagined this paragraph and how he or she interprets it and how it can be connected to the child’s own experience. The child here immediately takes an active role, stimulated by the adult.

The central point remains the story, the entire dialogue with the adult begins from there and this is fundamental because the book is the shared and neutral object of the discussion.

It is good to clarify here that the important role is that of the book and not that of the adult, the latter in fact does not impose the point of view or the interpretation of the story and of the images but, on the contrary, limits himself or herself to stimulating the child to evaluate and dialogue, then drawing back and letting the child lead the discussion. The adult will follow the child in whichever direction the young one will go, only intervening to correct wrong vocabulary or incoherent interpretations or associations. There is no limit to the imagination or the path that the child intends to take around the story.

In this way, the child actively interprets images and stories narrated by the book and even proposes alternative solutions within the context of the story itself. The element that unites children and adults is the constant reference to the book, a sort of common and neutral ground for discussion.

It is clear that in this procedure the child receives a series of very important stimuli. The stimulus to read, listen and understand; the stimulus to dialogue with the adult; the stimulus to interpret the contents of the story with one’s own personality; the stimulus to autonomously develop one’s own imagination within the well-defined limits established by the book.

In this procedure, the choice of the book is essential, it must meet precise requirements of quality in the contents and style, in order to appropriately stimulate the young reader.