Children’s Vocabulary

Dialogic Reading focuses on the expansion of children’s expressive vocabulary through dialogue with the adult around a shared theme, the story that is being read. Expressive vocabulary is directly related to the development of a personal vocabulary and the understanding of the text being read (Diana Brannon and Linda Dauksas, State Journal, 2012). By extension, the correlation also affects the child’s ability to understand the surrounding world, personal experiences and relationships with others, thus contributing significantly to the child’s development.

The development of the child’s expressive vocabulary is a central element in Dialogic Reading. This method does not provide for a passive, traditional participation of the child in the reading activity. Typically, the adult reads a text and the child listens following the rhythm and tone of the adult. Dialogic Reading, however, is based on encouraging children’s participation, providing feedback and regulating verbal interactions based on their subjective abilities (Arnold, Lonigan, Whitehurst, 1994). Dialogic Reading techniques focus on open-ended questions and broaden children’s comments and ideas about the book being shared. The goal is to shift interaction and conversation around the text from being led by the adult to being led by children. In fact, the adult simply reads the text and stimulates a comment from the child, but does not intervene further, leaving the child to elaborate his or her thoughts, comments and considerations around the text aloud. The child, in fact, develops all the dialogue and the adult at this stage merely follows him and encourages him. The directions the child can take are diverse and unpredictable, including imagining an alternative development of the story or making parallels with their own lived experiences.

As the dialogue around the book and its contents unfolds, the parent or teacher encourages the child to talk about their impressions and imagination, the story and the images. It is not a question / answer (Yes / No) dialogue but rather a dialogue in which the child feels free to take the direction he or she wants and the parent / teacher just encourages him or her to insist with expansions, repetitions , extensions, answers and questions that follow the interest of the child (Huebner, 2000, p. 513). This progression in the type of questions asked and the expected responses is important in encouraging language development (Scherer & Olswang, 1984).

The vocabulary in this procedure remains central because the child, during the dialogue with the adult, discovers and deepens all the variables and digressions that can be elaborated around a word or a concept, while the adult contributes to this discovery of further meanings by indicating synonyms or extensions of the concept. As the novelist Davide Amante clarifies: “Together with the adult, the child goes to the discovery the word, investigating it up to its limit and its, so to speak, boundaries, that region where the word gives way to another meaning because it is no longer possible go beyond. In this process the child learns to develop an individual vocabulary, to give context to individual experiences and the surrounding reality. Through the word, the child discovers the world and himself or herself. “