My favorite part of toddlerhood so far is how my son has become captivated by certain books and pictures. He’s developed tastes for certain genres of books (yes, okay, they mostly involve trucks and trains) and knows what will happen next in his favorite stories.
Do some of your closest moments with your kid involve him snuggled on your lap, in his pajamas, while you read softly?
Should parents be doing something else or something MORE? I recently read a few research articles about a form of shared reading called dialogic reading that is said to be more effective in promoting all the good things of reading aloud to our kids: vocabulary growth, word recognition, syntax development, sound structure, and listening skills. According to this line of research, “how you read” to your child is as important as “what you read.”
This reading technique aims to turn reading into an active conversation and your child into an active learner. The strategy involves three basic steps:
1. Prompt your toddler or preschooler with questions, starting with “What?” questions. For instance, when before reading a page, simply ask, “What is this?”
2. Expand on what your kid says. If you ask your child, “What is this?” and he says, “Kitty,” then say, “What is the kitty doing?”
3. Provide feedback and praise, leading to open-ended questions. Rephrase what your child has said and develop his thoughts further. “Yes, that’s right. The kitty is eating. What else is the kitty doing?”
Dialogic reading has been studied extensively for decades and appears to be effective, particularly for low-income kids. The goal is to get your child to become a storyteller himself and to encourage him to develop strategies for expanding his thinking. Sounds great, right?
Well, it’s making me tired. I’ve been trying it for a while. My son is not yet even two, and I’m tired of being worried about “maximizing his learning.” I feel like I should be doing everything possible to make sure that he becomes a good reader, and as an English teacher for more than 12 years and then contributing to a research study about early literacy, I know how important early foundations are to making sure that kids develop skills, habits, and a love for reading.
For right now, I think we’ll stick to traditional read-alouds and stay away from structured reading procedures.
How do you read to your child? Do you think about what your child is getting out it?