Dialogic reading is a more structured strategy in which educators intentionally prompt children to use their language skills during readings then provide praise and specific feedback that expands upon the children’s responses. Studies have shown that dialogic reading helps to grow children’s expressive language, particularly regarding vocabulary acquisition, making it a valuable tool for early educators.
In dialogic reading, the adult reader also assumes the dual role of an active listener— by asking questions, adding new information, and/or prompting children to respond. Traditionally, this also includes the eventual goal of switching roles entirely; for the adult to become only the active listener while the child (or children) “reads” by retelling the story from memory– not word-for-word, of course, but the general themes, events, and characters. Such a goal is only achievable after repeated readings of the same book, though how often such repetitions occur can depend on variables like the child’s (or children’s) preferences, and your purpose for reading a book (e.g., part of a lesson vs circle time). It is often practical and beneficial to read and revisit a book multiple times in the same day, particularly if it relates to the class lesson and activities. Repeated readings of books or stories appear to facilitate emergent literacy skill development as children generally asked more questions, became more engaged in dialogue, and demonstrated improved comprehension of familiar books
This video demonstrates how this teacher revisits the same book in her class.
Notice the paper tabs she added throughout the book? Keep it in mind for later!
There are multiple evidence-based dialogic reading techniques described in the literature, all organized into mnemonic tools that you can use to help guide you while reading. We will review some of the most prominent:
*all examples in this lesson refer to Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson*
What we now call “dialogic reading” was developed in 1988 by Dr. Grover Whitehurst and his colleagues, who created two sets of defined procedures for the task with the acronyms PEER and CROWD.
We will start with the PEER sequence, which Whitehurst called “the fundamental reading technique in dialogic reading.” The PEER sequence is a series of conversational strategies to create the structure for interactive conversations between children and adults while reading. In other words, each letter in the acronym represents a step, and following the whole sequence results in one guided interaction; a high frequency of opportunities for such interactions during readings will help fuel engaging, interactive conversations about each book. The steps to PEER are as follows:
This educator does an excellent job of demonstrating dialogic reading in an unstructured way, letting the children explore the book and practice their language skills. Try to identify when you hear him Prompt, Evaluate*, Expand, and Repeat (*this educator does not offer many corrections, but encourages the children to evaluate and correct their own responses while following their attentional lead)
Unlike PEER, the second acronym developed by Whitehurst and his colleagues is not a set of steps to follow. Instead, CROWD is a guide for remembering different kinds of prompts (i.e., the P in PEER) and how to use them. They are as follows:
The FIRST time you read a new book to children, it is best to focus on exploring the characters, new vocabulary (i.e., unfamiliar words or pictures), and the storyline (review the sections Interactive Reading, above, or Take a Book Walk, below). In subsequent readings, you should aim to include one PEER sequence per-page, though this is not a hard and fast rule. Further, you can read as much or as little of the written text on each page as you like. For books that aren’t part of instruction, you can focus less and less on the written words each time you read it; instead, start focusing more on leaving opportunities for the child to speak, or retell the story. Every time you read a book, your goal should be encouraging children to give longer, more detailed input, which helps to improve their vocabulary and language skills.
Following the pioneering work of PEER & CROWD, the research base for dialogic reading grew at lightning speed and several new techniques and strategies took shape. In 2011, authors of the publication PAVEd for Success described a method of providing children with prompts, structured around a hierarchy of three different question levels, during discussions about books. Together, they form the acronym CAR
Above all, remember that joint reading should be fun, so keep it light and be flexible; don’t bog children down with more prompts than they can handle, and don’t get stuck using the same prompts every time! Children will enjoy dialogic reading more than traditional reading so long as you mix up your prompts, vary what you do from reading to reading, and follow the child’s interest. We will learn more about this in an upcoming lesson, Using a Variety of Prompts.
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