Everyone knows that reading together with children is the single most important way to help them get ready to read, but I often hear care-givers reading to children in very boring, monotone voices as if they just want to get through the book quickly and be done with it. I may be preaching to the choir, but I would like to encourage a more enjoyable way for one on one sharing of books with young children.
It’s called dialogic reading. In dialogic reading, the adult helps the child become the teller of the story. The adult becomes the listener, the questioner, and the audience for the child. This is way more interesting for the child (and the adult). No one can learn to play the piano just by listening to someone else play. Likewise, no one can learn to read just by listening to someone else read. Children learn most from books when they are actively involved in the reading process.
In dialogic reading, the book is a conversation starter. Ask open-ended questions such as “What’s this?” or “Tell me about this.” Follow answers with another question or an expansion of what the child has said. For example, “Yes, that’s a frog. A big, green frog.” You can also make connections to past experiences or future events: “When did you?” “How do you feel when?” With dialogic reading, the book is a springboard to a conversation and greater learning. It’s not a race to get through the book. Maybe you’ll read just two pages. But, boy, the fun you’ll have!
There’s a whole mess of interactive books which make dialogic reading really easy. They have the questions and interaction built right into the story and these books are a good way to start your dialogic reading adventure. The idea of interactive books has been around a long time. Think of Pat the Bunny. The child is already actively patting that bunny, so have her tell you what color the bunny might be and what the bunny is doing.
Jan Thomas has written some great books for children and Can You Make a Scary Face? is awesome! Lady bug invites the reader to play a game of let’s pretend: what kind of face would you make if a tickly green bug were sitting on your nose? Or if it were–eek!–inside your shirt? Could you make a scary face to frighten it away? Or, even better, stand up and do the chicken dance? Yes? Then better get to it!
Tap the Magic Tree by Matheson is a wonderfully fun interactive picture book about the changing seasons. We had so much fun with this one in storytime because the children felt like they were doing magic. Tap the tree and a leaf grows! Tap again and there’s a blossom. Tap once more and there’s an apple. Again, and the autumn leaves fall. Give it a
Touch the Brightest Star is Matheson’s latest offering and is a beautifully illustrated interactive book. Lots of touching, tapping, and swiping changes the scene from dusk – through the night – and then to the new dawn. The text is simple and quiet, the illustrations lovely. There is a glossary in the back that explains all the things the reader found in the night sky as well as the night animals that appear. This is a great cuddle and read before bed book.
Herve Tullet has become a master of the interactive book. In Press Here, you press the dot on the cover and launch yourself into a journey where a book responds to your touch without any flaps, pop-ups or electronics. Follow the directions on each page, turn the page and see what happens next. This is a book that is simple in concept and beautifully executed in design. Readers will enjoy making the dots big by clapping their hands, moving the dots around the page by shaking the book, and turning off the lights by pushing the yellow dots hard. Tullet also wrote Mix it Up and Help! We Need a Title! and Let’s Play!
A great way to start dialogic reading is to use a wordless picture book. There are so many in the library that it’s hard to single any out, but we can help you find them.
Remember, dialogic reading is children and adults having a conversation about a book. Any book. It doesn’t have to be the ones on this list. Be relaxed about straying from the content of the book to interesting events in the child’s life. Children will enjoy dialogic reading more than traditional reading as long as you…
- mix up prompts with straight reading
- vary what you do from reading to reading
- follow the child’s interest
Keep it light. Don’t push children with more prompts than they can handle happily. Keep it fun! Come on down to the children’s room and get some great picture books today.