TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Dialogic Reading

How can a Read-Aloud be more than a Read-Aloud?

interrupting chicken coverWhen it is a conversation. Reading books aloud to kids accomplishes several goals. It provides pleasure, builds vocabulary, and exposes children to plot structure, characters and the world around them. But can it do more? Why, yes!

If, instead of reading a book straight through to a group of silent children, you have a conversation with the kids about the book as you are reading it, you can accomplish so much more.

Here's an example. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein is a powerhouse of a picture book: great illustrations, accurate portrayal of a bedtime scenario, wry humor and the perfect example of how NOT to read to a child. In the story, the little red chicken is driving her papa crazy. She interrupts him every time he tries to read her a fairy tale. And every time the little red chicken interrupts, her papa stops reading and scolds her, telling her to “try not to get so involved.”  

But involved is exactly what we want from a child listening to a story. By interrupting with her own ideas, the little red chicken is exercising her imagination, analyzing the story, predicting what happens next and making connections to her life and experiences. Having a conversation with children about a book while you are reading it to them helps them develop these crucial skills for successful reading.

Many of the children we serve experience a "conversation gap." This means they don't have as many opportunities to have in-depth conversations with adults as more affluent children and they've spent less time learning to interact and analyze on a deeper level. Discussing books with the kids as you read them provides much needed practice at these important social and thinking skills and can build reading comprehension abilities.

The fancy name for these conversations is dialogic reading. It basically means having a conversation with a child about the book you are reading together, while you are reading it. It means asking questions about the story or illustrations and then exploring the child’s answer and the story together.

What kind of questions, you ask?
  • Fill in the blank: In rhyming and repetitive books, pause at the end of a phrase and ask the child to finish it.
  • Prediction: What does the child think will happen next?
  • Who, What, When, Where, Why and How: The first four allow the child to identify elements of the story. Why and how are open-ended questions allowing her to provide her own insights and analyze the situation.
  • Connection: Can the child connect this to another book or a life experience?
Reading a story to a child this way is more fun for the child and more fun for the reader. By asking questions--and listening and responding to answers--you actively involve the child in the story, and you gain insights into her thoughts and imagination while building her reading comprehension and motivation.

Reading Rockets has a great article covering in more detail the what, why and how of dialogic reading. And here's a video showing how it's done.

So the next time you read aloud to a group of TRC kids, plan on lots of interruptions, conversation and fun.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

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