Big benefits from shared reading

Child with Down syndrome reading with teacherOne of the most effective ways to jump-start early literacy development is to read to children early (beginning by about 9 months) and often (at least 3 times a week). For toddlers and older children, interactive or shared reading is more effective at building language and literacy skills than simply reading aloud. There are many ways to make reading more interactive but one method in particular–Dialogic Reading—has been shown to have significant positive effects on oral language development. Pioneered by Dr. Grover Whitehurst and based on extensive research, Dialogic Reading involves repeated readings of a story while engaging the child in dialogue. The adult prompts the child with questions about the story and reinforces and expands on the child’s responses until, over time, the child becomes the storyteller and the adult, the listener.

Here is a video series by Dr. Whitehurst explaining Dialogic Reading. This easy-to-follow training video demonstrates how to use Dialogic Questioning with Video Stories. To learn more about the research supporting Dialogic Reading, see What Works Clearinghouse: Dialogic Reading.

Have you used this technique with your child or students? We’d love to hear from you!

5 thoughts on “Big benefits from shared reading

  1. I’d really love some help! My son with DS (turns 3 next week) will not let anyone read to him. He LOVES books and loves sitting with them and “reading” them to himself (he will pour over books for hours if allowed to!) but he doesn’t want to share that experience with anyone else. He has been like this since about 9mths of age. We have tried different ways of interacting with him and books. At this stage the closest we get is one of us saying “look there’s a shoe” as we see him look at the shoe. We are getting an I Pad and are hoping that we can use talking books with him on it. He has 3 older siblings and we are all book lovers and keen readers. I’m worried about the language learning that he is missing because he won’t allow us to read to him. He also has hearing and vision issues both of which have been or are currently being addressed.

  2. Sounds as if you have a very independent little guy! First, the fact that your son loves books is a huge positive. At this age, I would not want to do anything to take away from that (although I had to smile imagining you all watching and waiting for a chance to throw in a comment here and there–very creative). The good news is, this technique can be adapted for almost any situation. There is a link in my post above about using the method when watching videos (Dialogic Questioning with Videos), but you can incorporate the approach into your everyday activities. Here is a link to a short article that offers examples of this:

    I have a colleague who specializes in this area and I am going to ask her to follow up with a guest post because I would bet that many families face the same situation you do.

  3. First, Go Hannah Go!!!

    Second, I can totally relate to the last comment. There are times Noah has no interest in me reading to him, even when I have the time. He insists on reading the book to himself. Fortunately, most of the time he lets me. And I do think there is great value in a child developing his own relationship with books.

    Sometimes his refusal to work with me seems to be based on his awareness that I have an agenda. If there is some way to read to him on his terms???? Like maybe opening up the book with him and just looking at the pictures and talking very simply about them. It sounds like the commenter is trying to do some of that with the shoe example.

    I wonder what would happen if the mom picked up a book and read it out loud softly to herself or another family member – even another parent and completely ignored the child. Would the child’s interest get peaked?

    Thanks so much for all your work in this field.

  4. I found this information very useful! I work with a child with Down syndrome, as well as with children with other disabilities. Unknowingly, I was already doing some of the techniques described in the link such as leaving out the last word of a sentence and letting the child say it. One of the children I work with doesn’t always enjoy being read to so I will often grab a book that he has shown interest in at other times and just begin to read it. At the end of each page I would say something like “Oh my goodness! Look how big that monster is!” and it peaks the child’s interest enough to come see the book and then the child becomes fully engaged.

    I have had a lot of success with one child by making it routine that we read a story before going to bed. I read a story to her, then she will read it to me. Her interest in books has grown so much and she looks forward to reading to me!

  5. As a graduate student who is getting certification in teaching children with special needs, i believe dialogic reading is quite essential in building expressive and receptive language, communication skills and improving literacy in children. Dialogic reading is an interactive method of reading picture books with children, where the adult encourages the child to be an active participant in the reading process ( we all know how children love picture books and love to be a part of storytelling) by allowing children to ask questions and gives them an opportunity to be little storytellers themselves. I believe this is important to do with children, seeing that everyday our world becomes more technology-driven and people tend to forget about the joys of storytelling and reading an actual book. This method of reading will foster a love and an interest in reading.

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