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Dialogic reading encourages kids to interact with books

Dialogic Reading

Sharing books with children is important, but the WAY we share them is just as important! Research has suggested different ways of sharing a book that can help parents and caregivers teach early literacy skills in various and engaging ways. Dialogic Reading is a fun way to share books with your younger preschooler of two or three years.

What is Dialogic Reading?

Dialogic Reading (or Hear and Say Reading) is using the pictures in a book to talk with your child. You will usually use Dialogic Reading with a book you have already shared with your child. It's a fun and different way of sharing books—and their pictures.

Let's Try It!

  • Ask close-ended questions while looking at the pictures in the book. You can ask them to point to something on the page, or name an object. Yes-or-no questions work well too.

    • Example: Point to a picture of something on the page and say: "What's this?" or "What's this called?"

  • Follow up with questions that build on the first one.

    • Example: If your child names the item "Truck," you might ask: "What color is the truck?" or "What's this part of the truck called?"

  • When your child answers a question, repeat what they say and add a little to it.

    • Example: "Yes, that's the truck - the big red dump truck!"

  • If your child can't answer, go ahead and answer - but then encourage your child to repeat what you have said.

  • Follow your child's interests.

    • Example: If your child shows particular interest in something in a picture (by pointing or talking about it, for example), ask questions about that thing and encourage your child to talk!

  • Always keep it fun - like a game! You can try reading one page and talking about the pictures on the next. Be sure to give plenty of praise.

  • When your child is older, you can use more open-ended questions to engage in dialogic reading.

    • Example: "What is happening?" "How do you think she feels?" "Why?" "Have you ever felt that way?" Parents can tie what is happening in the picture to events in the childs life: "Do you remember when...?" Then talk about it!

All of this talk surrounds the pictures in the book - not necessarily the story. The pictures become vehicles for give-and-take conversations between parent and child.

Adults should allow the child at least 5 seconds to respond before prompting or responding for the child. Add extra descriptive words to the response, too, and then prompt the child again with an observation or question. Keep the conversation going, but always keep it fun!

The Best Books for Dialogic Reading:

  • Have a simple story that is not too long.

  • Have clear pictures that show action and detail.

  • Have pictures that are familiar and interesting to your child.every child ready to read logo

Guidelines from Storytimes for Everyone by Saroj Ghoting (www.earlylit.net)

Some Good Books for Dialogic Reading:


Cows in the Kitchen
by June Crebbin

Good Night, Gorilla
by Peggy Rathmann

Bedtime for Monsters
by Ed Vere

Oliver Finds His Way
by Phyllis Root

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed
by Margaret Chodos-Irvine


There are, of course, many more. Ask your librarian for suggestions!

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