Educational research demonstrates that the more children talk about a book during the reading experience, the better their vocabulary development. Russ Whitehurst and his colleagues at The Stony Book Reading and Language Project have pioneered a method of reading with preschoolers known as dialogic reading. Dialogic reading is a method designed to get children to talk more during book reading sessions. At a high level, the technique involves prompting the child with questions, and then building upon their responses by rephrasing and adding information. Each time you read the same book using dialogic reading, the children should be doing more and more of the storytelling. The key to effective dialogic reading is how to prompt children to say things. Whitehurst and colleagues have identified five types of prompts, represented by the acronym CROWD. Here is an explanation of each type of prompt including ideas of how to leverage them inside Kindoma Storytime.
- Completion prompts: These prompts use the classic ‘fill-in-the-blank’ mechanic. Parents leave words out and get children to fill in the word. For example, “This is a cat, he has a ____”, letting the child fill in the blank hat. These prompts help children grasp the structure of language. In Kindoma Storytime, you can also point to the image of the hat to help children identify the matching word.
- Recall prompts: These prompts get children to recount what has happened in the story. For example, “Can you tell me what happened to the three little pigs.” Recall prompts help children grasp story plot and event sequencing.
- Open-ended prompts: In books with rich illustrations, you may ask a child “Tell me what’s happening on this page.” Model using the pointing finger for the child and encourage the child to point to things as they are discussing them. These prompts help promote expressive fluency and attention to detail.
- Wh- prompts: Asking kids questions that start with what, when, where, why around illustrations helps to develop a child’s vocabulary. For example, “What material is this pig using to build his house?” while pointing at the house.
- Distancing prompts: These prompts help relate images and words in the stories to their own lives. While pointing to an image of an alligator, say “Remember when we went to the zoo and saw alligators? What other animals did we see?”
Lots of research demonstrates that dialogic reading works! As Russ Whitehurst says himself:
“Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. We have found these effects with hundreds of children in areas as geographically different as New York, Tennessee, and Mexico, in settings as varied as homes, preschools, and daycare centers, and with children from economic backgrounds ranging from poverty to affluence.”
We hope these tips improve your Storytime! Remember to have fun and follow your child’s interests to get them talking.