Your Clever Toddler in Week 101: Dialogue during Story Time Boosts Kids’ Vocabulary
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 101
How do you approach story time in your home? Do you read the text straight through, plodding along methodically to the end? Or is the experience a shared, interactive activity during which you pause to point out illustrations, ask questions, and get input from your child?
While any kind of reading experience is beneficial to children, the latter method can increase a child’s vocabulary and even the length of his utterances! Called “dialogic reading,” it’s simply a way to engage your child in conversation as you read him a book.
What the Research Shows
Researchers observed parents reading to their two- and three-year-olds. Most simply read the book aloud straight through. Few parents used the techniques involved in dialogic reading—inquiring about the book’s characters and situations, offering the listener praise for being engaged, repeating and imitating the child’s utterances, and following the listener’s lead in the reading experience. They didn’t expand on what the child said, nor did they ask open-ended questions about what they were reading.
The researchers then set out to teach the parents the skills they needed to engage in dialogic reading. One group of parents received in-person instruction, another group watched a video at home that defined and demonstrated each reading technique and then got follow-up phone calls from researchers, and a third group only watched the video.
No matter the method of instruction, the parents later demonstrated that they had learned the skills involved in dialogic reading—and as a result, their children’s language skills improved! The toddlers showed a significant increase in verbosity—that is, they spoke more and with longer utterances—compared with a group of children whose parents hadn’t learned the dialogic reading skills.
Week 101 Brain Booster
So how can you become a more engaging reader? Let’s use a bedtime favorite—Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown—to illustrate dialogic reading:
Ask “what” questions: “What’s the bunny doing?” “What do you see on the rug?”
Ask questions about function: “How does the clock work?”
Ask questions about attributes: “What’s the bunny wearing?” “What color is the
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