In a recent 2008 research conducted by Paul L. Morgan and Catherine R. Meier, it is stated that “Young children entering school with poor oral vocabulary skills may be doubly disadvantaged. Their poor oral vocabulary skills will likely impede their attempts to become proficient readers while also possibly increasing the frequency of their problem behaviors. Dialogic reading is a scientifically validated shared storybook reading intervention that is known to boost at-risk children’s oral vocabulary skills. Use of DR is one potential way to help children avoid both later reading failure and the negative outcomes associated with poor behavior.” The two researchers add, citing a 2000 research by Kaiser, Hancock, Cai, Foster and Hester and numerous other recent researches, that poor oral vocabulary skills and problematic behavior constantly coexist and that the correlation between the two problems persists as the child grows, as the research of Griffith, Rogers-Adkinson, and Cusick (1997) also demonstrates.
Why do poor language skills and problematic behavior often occur together? One hypothesis is that poor oral vocabulary skills make it more difficult for children to use the so-called pragmatic language, thus leading to more aggressive behaviors or refusal of involvement. Pragmatic language is the ability to establish and sustain topics of conversation, match one’s level of communication with that of others and adapt one’s communication to listeners to make it understandable (Norris, 1995). Poor pragmatic language skills could adversely affect a child’s behavioral and social decision making (McDonough, 1989).
Researchers have found a connection between poor pragmatic language proficiency and behavioral or social skills deficits. Both Bain (2001) and Cohen et al. (1993) found that language deficiencies contribute to children’s difficulties in interacting with peers and adults and therefore lead to the development of social skills deficits. Fujiki, Brinton, Morgan, and Hart (1999) observed that children with language disabilities were much more likely to be less involved and avoid peer interactions than children who exhibited average language development. The researchers also found that language deficits in young children almost always predict later behavioral difficulties.
As Paul L. Morgan and Catherine R. Meier explain in the research cited above, “A well-established method of improving a child’s oral vocabulary skills is to frequently read children’s books with him or her. Frequent shared reading of children’s books leads to vocabulary growth and, in turn, success in reading and other academic areas (e.g. Bus, van IJzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Crain-Thoreson & Dale, 1992; Debaryshe , 1993; Senechal, LeFevre, Hudson, & Lawson, 1996; Whitehurst et al., 1999). A particularly well-validated reading process for shared children’s books is Dialogic Reading.
The benefits of Dialogic Reading, from a child’s behavioral point of view, are particularly evident. Children learn a new vocabulary through active involvement (as shown by Bloom’s research, 2002) and exposure to new words in expressive and meaningful ways in their family and / or school environment (study by Hart & Risley, 1995). When young children participate in Dialogic Reading together with a parent, they are offered the opportunity to develop expressive language through a new vocabulary modulated by the parent’s style, through a greater number of questions and answers (study by DeBaryshe, 1995).
The use of Dialogic Reading both as a habit at home by parents and as an educational tool in the classroom by teachers, ensures children the social experience of listening to others, taking turns in talking and getting to know their peers and / or parents, share topics, thoughts and imagination with them. Using Dialogic Reading with well selected quality books, provides teachers in the classroom as well as parents at home with thew opportunity to promote and stimulate socio-emotional skills.
The development of expressive language is particularly important for the child, in fact the practice of Dialogic Reading accustoms the child to broaden their vocabulary, to elaborate more precisely ideas and thoughts around a topic, to develop a coherent interpretation of the context surrounding the story. These notions lead the child to a more balanced and harmonious behavior with their peers, taking into account others’ point of view and leading the child to find a correct mediation between differences. All this translates into basically more balanced behaviors and a decrease of extreme phenomena such as, for example, imposing attitudes, submissive attitudes, refusal to understand, excessive anxieties and fears, detachment from the group due to misunderstanding.
Further reading here:
Promoting Emergent Literacy and Social–Emotional Learning Through Dialogic Reading, 2011, Brooke Graham Doyle, Wendie Bramwell
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