Dialogic Book Talk

Dialogic book talk is a wonderful way to introduce your little one to the wonderful world of books. We show you how to incorporate this simple method with your mini bookworm.

Dialogic book talk is simply children and adults having a conversation about a book, helping to actively engage them in the text (or the pictures). It’s a way to develop an understanding of the story where language is used to encourage thinking about the book, the characters, and the meanings or morals.

This can be a valuable tool for little readers for developing literacy skills, and can help improve print awareness, oral language, vocabulary, speech, and comprehension.

Want to give dialogic book talk a try with your child? These instructions are specific to children who are aged 3-4 years old but can be adapted to younger children by changing the language you use.

You Will Need:

  • A favourite book, ideally a story book that they know or are familiar with.
  • Or any available book, comic, magazine, or even a toy catalogue will do. 

The Activity:

  1. start with using 'the language of books' to help your child to build the relevant vocabulary associated with books and reading, emphasising key words such as:

Let's start at the beginning; let's go to the front of the book; I wonder what the 'title' of this book is? I wonder who the 'author' is?

  1. Encourage your child to turn the pages 'one at a time' and go from left to right as books in English are written this way.
  2. Now for the exciting part. Forget about the words that are written in the story. Just go off-piste and see what happens. You should ask questions relating to the pictures, so things like:

Can you see the little boy with the blue jumper? (Encourage your child to point to the boy)

What do you think he's doing? Where has he been? Who is he with?

What do you think the lady with the dog is doing? Where do you think they're going?

What do you think the dog is called? I wonder whether it's a girl or a boy dog? How do you

know? What makes you think that?

If it's a story you know well, you could encourage some 'recall and retell' from your child:

Can you remember what the little girl in the story is called? What do you think is happening in this picture?

Can you remember what happens next? Let's see if you're right...who is this? Why do you think....

What would you do if.... What do you think would happen if...?

How This Supports Knowledge and Development:

Engaging your child in this process, known as dialogic book talk, enables them to:

  • Think critically about a story and imagine different scenarios using their experience of life and think creatively.
  • Learn and use new words to extend their vocabulary and more importantly, to use language for thinking to explain what they see and what they feel.
  • Develop their comprehension (understanding of the story) so that they can explore their thinking and develop their imagination.
  • Develop a love of storytelling, as well as a love of books.
  • Enjoy being with you and spending time talking with you and exploring their thoughts and ideas. Books and talking together become a source of real enjoyment because you're sharing special time together.

Extending the Activity:

If you have younger children, it's easy to adapt the activity to suit their age/stage of development.

Babies: choose a picture book and point to items on the page.

Give single words at first to describe what you see/are pointing to, then 'add one more' to encourage sentence building:

  • ...big/little dog

  • ... baby.... baby crying

Encourage your baby to point too and give vocabulary in small sentences to acknowledge that you're listening and contributing:

  • ... baby drinking juice.

  • You like juice too.... Lucy likes apple juice.

Remember to pause when you've given some words/vocabulary to allow your baby to repeat and then recast their attempts to copy your words:

  • That's right.... baby.... baby sleeping.... shhhh... baby sleeping

Change the tone of your voice and adjust your volume to add interest.

Enjoy spending a few moments together with a book and no distractions, and reading could very soon become a favourite and special time of the day.

Words to Introduce During the Activity to Support Language Development

Some words that you might want to introduce to your child in preparation for reading readiness include:

  • Numbers
  • Pages
  • Cover (front/back)
  • illustrations
  • Title
  • Author
  • Characters
  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • End (of story)
  • Words

Final Thoughts

A love for books and the enjoyment of reading is something that children learn from spending time with you, without interruptions. It's an activity you can both enjoy together.

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