Early Literacy Fun with Dialogic Reading


Looking for new ways to engage your young child in reading picture books together? Dialogic reading is an approach to building early literacy skills with your toddler or preschooler. Don’t let the fancy name intimidate you – it’s intended to be a fun way to draw your child into picture books by encouraging him to talk about them with you.

One thing I love about dialogic reading is that it helps your child enjoy books from an early age, while also building spoken language skills. The book becomes a jumping-off point for lots of conversation and imaginative thinking. An easy way to remember the process is with the PEER acronym.

Prompt your kid to comment about the book.

Ask her “What’s he doing?” or “What’s that?” while pointing to an illustration. These questions can eventually get more advanced, like “What do you think she’ll do next?” or “How did he know where the treasure was hidden?”

Evaluate your child’s response.

His response will let you know how much he understands, and you can reply accordingly with “You’re right!” or “Hmm, that looks like a balloon to me.”  If a spoken answer is hard to understand, model the correct pronunciation back to your child. Make it fun and positive!

Expand on what your child has said.

Add words to her comment, model new vocabulary, or make a connection to past experiences. For instance, you could say “Yes, that’s a big green balloon,” “The balloon is floating up, up, up,” or “We got a balloon at the market last week.” Having illustrations in front of you reinforces the words you’re using, so feel free to point at the pictures as you talk.

Repeat the prompt.

Repeat the prompt in some form to check that your child has understood your expansion and give him some practice trying out the words you just modeled.


Here are a few other tips for using dialogic reading with your tiny bookworm:

  • Keep it fun! It may take practice for your child to become more actively involved in talking about books with you, and fun should be the primary goal.
  • Use books that are high-interest for your child and/or have lots of pictures. Giving kids a choice of several books can be motivating for them.
  • It’s ok to simply use pictures in the book to guide your reading together – no need to get hung up on reading every word aloud, especially for familiar books.
  • Most experts recommend encouraging interaction on each page of a book, though you know your child best. These strategies should keep your child interested, but she might want to keep moving through the pages. You’ll find the right balance of chatting and reading.
  • Over time, you may discover that your child does more and more of the talking while sharing books. This approach is intended to get kids more active in the reading process, even before they can decode words themselves. Let your child take the lead!


Curious to learn more? Check out these links:

Raising a Reader Massachusetts created this short video of one mom using dialogic reading strategies with her son.

Reading Rockets shares some more in-depth info about dialogic reading and the research behind it.

Contact us if you’re interested in a free screening for your child!

Happy reading!


Written by Mary Stanton, M.S., CCC-SLP

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