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Strengthen Your Child’s Communication Skills with Dialogic Reading

Strengthen Your Child’s Communication Skills with Dialogic Reading


We all know reading is an essential skill for children to learn and can help with many other areas of development. However, studies have shown dialogic reading takes this to a whole other level.

If you’re looking for ways to strengthen your child’s communication skills, dialogic reading could be beneficial to add into your child’s routine. It not only helps increase their vocabulary, but will help you build a better, stronger bond with them too.

These tips will help you start dialogic reading to best benefit your child. We’ll share what books will help keep your child the most engaged as well as how to start these all-important conversations.

What is dialogic reading?

Dialogic reading is an interactive reading technique involving a back-and-forth conversation between a reader (usually an adult) and a child during shared reading of a book. The goal of dialogic reading is to actively engage the child in the storytelling process, promoting language development and comprehension skills.

How does dialogic reading help improve communication skills in children?

Taking part in dialogic reading helps expose children to new words and phrases. Through open-ended, thought-provoking questions, they are encouraged to problem-solve, express their thoughts and ideas, as well as learn how to take turns conversing. It also helps increase a kid’s confidence when speaking or expressing themselves. 

Studies around dialogic reading have shown children whose parents engaged in dialogic reading acquired significantly more words from pre-test results than those who did not. This was even more significant in children who were English language learners or from lower-income families. 

Tips for Dialogic Reading at Home

1. Use illustration-heavy books with less words.

The best books to use when you start dialogic reading are those with simple plots, lots of illustrations and limited words on each page. This will help children, particularly younger kids, be able to express themselves while they’re still developing words.

“Books with illustrations help pique a child’s interest and curiosity. By associating words with shapes and objects they already know, they begin to naturally expand their vocabulary and be interested in discussing the contents of the book.”

Busy Books Australia are ideal for dialogic reading as they have been created by a panel of child experts to help encourage discussion with children in an age-appropriate way. For example, the My Little Farm Printed Busy Book is ideal for beginning dialogic reading. It has been recommended by speech therapists, occupational therapists, early childhood educators and pediatric psychologists, recommended for children aged 2 to 5 years old. With 21 fun activities with bright, colourful illustrations exploring animals on the farm, kids get to learn new sounds, basic math, drawing and more. It’s a great book to get conversations started.


2. Follow the PEER (Prompt, Evaluate, Expand, Repeat) Sequence.

The PEER (Prompt, Evaluate, Expand, Repeat) sequence is a great way for parents and teachers to start dialogic reading with kids. The technique is often used after the book has been read or after each page to explore more thoughts about the contents of the story. 

  • Prompt the child to say something about what you’re reading, such as asking a question, like, “What’s this or what colour is that?”
  • Evaluate the child’s response and if it’s correct to help you know what information to add next.
  • Expand on the child’s response, such as helping them with the correct answer or having them use another word to expand their vocabulary.
  • Repeat the child’s response and have them repeat what you said to try new words.

For example, in the My Little Farm Book, there is an activity where kids draw paths helping the farmer take the horse to the barn. After you have done the book or even the activity, you could ask a younger child where the horse’s home is or ask an older child what they think the horse did once it went home to the barn. The older your child, the more open-ended your questions can be.

3. Limit distractions when reading.

The more focused your child is on the task of reading and exploring the story, the easier it will be for them to recall information and have a conversation when prompted. When setting up for dialogic reading, get comfortable and ensure you’re in a well-lit room, ideally natural lighting. Turn off any external noises, like TVs or radios, and keep phones or devices out of sight to limit your child’s distractions.

It’s also best to ensure your child is well-rested, but also not overly energetic. Make sure they have been to the bathroom, not hungry or thirsty and in comfortable clothes for sitting and reading. If you find your child is distracting, looking around or fidgeting, try and direct their attention by pointing to an illustration and asking a question to redirect their focus. If they continue to seem distracted, it may be better to try again at another time.

4. Use props and visual aids.

Many children who are struggling to read will often find strategies to learn words based on recognition, such as accompanying pictures or shapes. This is known as three cueing and has been shown to produce poorer reading skills than children who are prompted to explore new visual memory processes. Using visual aids or props in conjunction with dialogic reading can help children learn new words by exploring different words and ideas by recalling information.

This is why Busy Books Australia, like the My Little Farm book, has multiple activities to have children explore the same words and concepts in different ways. For example, the child will be asked to match a picture of a horse with the word horse, trace a picture of a horse, trace the letters of the word horse, pick out the horse hoof shape, what the horse eats, where it lives and more. With each step, you can discuss more information about horses and have them recall information they have already learned, such as “Do you remember what colour the horse was” when tracing the picture of a horse.

5. Follow your child’s lead.

Dialogic reading is easiest when you follow your child’s cues. As their ability to respond increases, you can increase the complexity of the questions. For example, children under the age of 12 months respond best to “Where” type questions and having them point or follow your pointing, while older children can answer more open-ended questions, such as “What noise does a horse make?”

Feedback is also important for helping your child learn. If they don’t get a question right or aren’t sure, you can help them with the solution, but have them repeat the answer. You can then ask them an easy question to help build their confidence. When you revisit the story another time, try asking the same question they didn’t answer correctly to see if they retained the information.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dialogic Reading


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