Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Training Head Start Parents in Dialogic Reading to Improve Outcomes for Children

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Training Head Start Parents in Dialogic Reading to Improve Outcomes for Children

Article excerpt


Children from low-income families often have decreased language and literacy skills upon entering kindergarten (1,2). This is attributed to decreased access to books and shared reading experiences and parents who often do not have the skills to engage their children in reading in a way that positively affects their children's language and literacy skills. According to Hart and Risley (3), by age three years, the correlation between frequency of adult verbal input and children's expressive language skills is .84. Following a two and one half year period of one hour monthly observations, research documented a widening gap of children's language skills from homes of professional, working class, and very low- income families (3). In a meta-analysis of almost 200 studies which examined the relationship between academic achievement and socio-economic status (SES), correlations as high as .73 were found (2). Therefore, it is essential to provide parents with skills to improve outcomes in language and literacy for their children prior to entering kindergarten.

Dialogic reading strategies have a strong research and practical foundation in assisting typically developing and high-risk children in increasing their expressive vocabulary and oral language skills (4-7). Dialogic reading shifts the roles of the adult and child during shared story book reading. Unlike typical shared-reading, where the adult is the reader and the child the listener, in dialogic reading, the child becomes the storyteller and the adult an active listener (4). Dialogic reading incorporates five types of prompts implemented by adults while reading picture books with children. These are referred to by the acronym CROWD, representing the concepts of completion, recall, open-ended questions, wh- questions, and distancing. The first step is completion, where the adult provides a blank for the child to fill in at the end of a sentence. Recall involves the adult asking questions about the events or main idea in the story. Next, the adult asks open-ended questions to encourage the child to describe what is happening in a picture. Wh-questions are used to prompt the child to describe or name pictures in the book, focusing particularly on vocabulary. Finally, distancing engages the child in relating pictures and words in the book to their own experiences (4,8).

Another dialogic reading technique is symbolized by the acronym PEER, referring to the adult prompting the child to say something related to the book, evaluating what the child said, expanding on that response and then repeating, or asking the child to repeat the expansion (4,8). This process allows the child to become more familiar with the shared book. In turn, the adult role in reading the book decreases while the child's role increases. Dialogic reading aims to move the child beyond naming objects in the book to analyzing the content and relating it back to his/her own experiences (9).

There is much research evidence supporting the effectiveness of dialogic reading in typically developing children and children who are at-risk (4- 8,10). In a series of four randomized control studies, typically developing preschool children from both middle class and low socioeconomic backgrounds received shared book reading intervention with either their parents (one-to-one), teachers (in small groups), or both. Intervention times ranged from four weeks to one school year, with reading sessions varying from three to five times per week. Participants were provided with picture books which were read for one week each (4,7,8).

Previous research studies in dialogic reading incorporated the use of pretest-posttest design with measures including the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R; 11), Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test (One Word; 12) or Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test- Revised (One Word; 13); and the expressive subscale of the Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities (ITPA; 14) to assess growth in receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary, and verbal fluency skills in describing common objects. …

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