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  Cornell University

Children’s Literature

Promoting children's literacy through dialogic reading

What is Dialogic Reading?

At the beginning of this year, we had Professor Elizabeth Stilwell from Cornell’s Department of Human Development come and give our Book Buddies a talk about dialogic reading and its effects on developing early literacy in children. What is dialogic reading? Here’s what Professor Stilwell had to say:

“Adults can enhance young children’s language and literacy skills through use of a strategy known as dialogic reading, which allows children to become participants in telling the story. Dialogic storybook reading is intended to be used with individual children, or small groups of children. Children are encourage to engage physically with the book. The adult begins by starting with the pictures, and then moves to the text. For example, as children look at the cover of the book, the adult may ask the child to predict what will happen in the story. Adults elicit comments from children and respond. Children do most of the talking. The adult asks open-ended questions like “Why do you think Rosie doesn’t see the fox?” The adult then expands on the child’s responses by commenting on what the child says, such as, “Yes – that is a rabbit jumping over the cabbage patch.” The adult encourages further conversation by thinking aloud about the story, making comments like “I wonder how the boy is feeling with all of those crows buzzing around him…”

This process of sharing dialogic reading deepens children’s engagement with story and text through enjoyable interactions with an attentive adult. It can be contrasted with the scenario of an adult sharing a  book with a child by reading as the child sits quietly and listens the entire time. This noninteractive form of reading often takes place with the adult reading to a large group of children. Reading with individual children, or with small groups of children, allows for more interaction, and for children’s active engagement with the text, pictures and most important, the characters, events and ideas in the book.”

As the Book Buddies program has developed, we’ve tried to use the techniques of dialogic reading to get the children at the Drop-In Children’s Center excited and engaged with books. Keep checking back for ways to incorporate these strategies into storybook reading!

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