5 minutes

Unlocking children’s language potential through dialogic reading

What is dialogic reading?

Within the covers of children’s favourite books there lies a powerful tool for language development, namely dialogic reading. This interactive approach transforms story time into an engaging conversation, where children not only listen to and enjoy the words on the page but also actively participate in shaping the narrative. Through dialogic reading, children can also develop a love not just for stories, but also for storytelling.

Dialogic reading turns traditional storytelling on its head.Here, the child is encouraged to take the reins as the storyteller, while the adult assumes the role of an enthusiastic audience member. Instead of passively listening, children actively engage with the story, and with gentle prompts and support from the adult, offer their interpretations, ideas, and reflections.

Dialogic reading in the classroom or at home

Embracing dialogic reading requires a blend of creativity, enthusiasm, and flexibility. Here are some strategies to make the most of this interactive approach:

  1. Rotate a selection of favourite stories along with ‘new’ storybooks. Both fresh and familiar stories can spark fun conversations and keep children eagerly     anticipating the next story time.
  2. Use gentle prompting. Instead of simply narrating the story, prompt children     to share their insights and reactions. For younger children, this might be asking, “What is this?” “I can see a ….!” For older children, “What is going to happen next?” “What could the boy do?”
  3. Echo responses and explore further: validate children's contributions by echoing their responses and delving deeper. “You can see a dog? What is he     doing?” This not only reinforces their participation but also encourages emerging comprehension skills.
  4. Build on children’s interests: praise the children for their contributions, no matter how big or small. Cultivate a supportive environment where every     idea is valued, and curiosity is celebrated. Tailor future story times to the child’s interests, using their favourite books as springboards for further exploration. 


For first time stories, tell the story straight through without encouraging any chat, so that the children can get a flavour of the story and enjoy the unfolding of the narrative as a spectator. For run throughs of familiar stories,  ‘read’ the room. Is it time to have some fun with some lively conversations as you share a book or to read a story quietly at the end of a long day.

With dialogic reading, every page turn becomes an opportunity for discovery and connection. Studies have shown that this dynamic exchange during shared reading significantly enhances children's oral language development compared to more passive forms of reading.

So, have fun on this literary adventure, one story at a time!

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