Dialogic Reading is an interactive reading method in which the adult reader (Parent or Teacher) encourages a verbal dialogue with the child or children by means of prompts, expansions of the speech, repetitions and arguments. The goal is for the child to become the narrator and the adult to become the listener (Whitehurst, et al, 1988). The tool with which Dialogic Reading is implemented is the children’s book, as long as it is a book of adequate quality content.
This method has scientific relevance and has been extensively studied over the years since the 1980s and has been found to be extremely effective in contributing to the formation of a correct vocabulary in the child. It is proven that the formation of an appropriate vocabulary, in turn, contributes significantly to the development of intellectual, relational and behavioral skills in children. Dialogic Reading is a method that works with ages from 3 years to 12 years, with a few differences in the procedure depending on the age of the child, which we will see in detail later in this article.
Why is this method so effective? Because Dialogic Reading is based on two essential factors: the children’s book as a basic tool and the adult (Parent and/or Teacher)-child dialogue. Let’s see in detail these two essential aspects of Dialogic Reading.
The book can be any children’s book purchased from the bookstore or, for example, Amazon. The decisive factor for the parent and/or teacher is choosing a quality children’s book, that has a solid story stimulating ideas and imagination and, possibly, an interpretation of life, well developed and written and possibly by a competent author. You should discard sketchy, lightweight, trivial books with stories that carry a limited and/or repetitive view of things. Four examples for everyone: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or The Guardian of the Stars, The journey of Anais with the wind by Davide Amante, Alice in the Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum. All the books you will find on this site are specially selected and adequate for Dialogic Reading. The choice of a quality book is fundamental in Dialogic Reading as it ensures non-repetitive, non-trivial content that allows the child a broad and profound vision of reality upon which it is possible to start a dialogue with the parents.
Parent-child dialogue is the second essential factor in Dialogic Reading. The parent spends time with their children, approximately half an hour or an hour a day for example when the children go to bed in the evening or during the day depending on availability, and begins reading the book. Having read a few paragraphs, the parent stops reading and proposes the children to talk about what they have read up to that point. This is the fundamental moment of Dialogic Reading because the parent stimulates the children to express their opinion and discuss around the book, then putting himself or herself in the background and leaving the field free for the children to express their thought about what they just read in the book. Children are thus stimulated to dialogue but also to develop their own thoughts around the book with their own words and expressions. The parent will simply confirm that the expressions and words used by the child are correct and consistent and if anything to provide the child with synonyms or other expressions to define what he or she wants to say, thus helping him or her to broaden their vocabulary and expression skills. During this process a constructive dialogue is established between parent and children, around a specific and shared theme which is that of the book. Since the theme is external to the family, because it has to do with the story narrated in the book and is not a dialogue on any other topic familiar to the child, the discussion will help the child find common grounds with the parent or, on the contrary, differences in the way the story is interpreted. This process highly contributes to the development of the relationship with the parent but also to the child’s self-awareness. In this way the child, in addition to developing personal expressive abilities, also develops a greater relational and consequently behavioral maturity, which is then reflected in relationships with peers.
During the parent-child dialogue it is important that children take the direction they wish and that their thoughts are accepted with respect and interest by the adult, who will intervene in the discussion only by providing help to the children when they show difficulty in expressing or completing their thoughts. The children must be left free to develop additional arguments to the story and even develop different scenarios from those proposed by the book.
The benefits of Dialogic Reading are evident for children from 3 to 12 years. The method remains valid in all these age groups, what will change will be the book itself which, in younger children, will be chosen by the parent among the books in which the image prevails over the extension of the text, giving more importance to the text and less to the image as the child gets older. In books with a prevalence of images, as well as in books with a prevalence of text, it is essential to choose content books that are valid and offer an comprehensive vision of life. All the books presented on this site are suitable for Dialogic Reading.