Early literacy, what children know about reading and writing before they actually read or write, is of the utmost importance.

The best activity to develop early literacy is to read aloud to children, especially during their preschool years, according to the study “Becoming a Nation of Readers” sponsored by the National Institute of Education.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children introduced to reading early on tend to read earlier and excel in school compared to children who are not exposed to language and books at a young age.

Early literacy is at the forefront of storytimes presented at the Manhattan Public Library. Dialogic reading, an early literacy tool, is utilized during these storytimes.

Dialogic reading essentially uses questions around the pictures in books. Using questions when reading helps to develop children’s knowledge, comprehension, imagination, and enjoyment of books.

Saroj Ghoting, an Early Childhood Literacy Consultant and national trainer, created the acronym PEER to use during dialogic reading. This offers a great way to remember the different steps.

P is for prompt. Prompt the child to tell you something about the book by asking a question. You may ask “What kind of animal is that?” when looking at a picture in a book. Or ask, when looking at the cover of a book, “What do you think this book is about?”

E is for evaluating the child’s response. “Yes, that’s right. It’s a horse.”

E is for expand. Expand the child’s response by repeating, rephrasing, and adding information. “It’s a baby horse, called a foal.”

R is for repeat. Repeat the new word or phrase and allow the child time to repeat it back to you; help guide them if needed. “It’s a foal. Can you say foal?”

One can always expand on the details of the picture, as well. “It’s a brown foal with white spots. What does a horse say?” The more words you speak to a child, the bigger their vocabulary knowledge will be, which will help them when learning to read.

Books that have pictures, are not too long, and that are of interest to your child are excellent choices for dialogic reading.

Children often like to have the same book read to them over and over again. Dialogic reading assists in diversifying the reading of a story by simply asking different questions each time.

One of my favorite books to use dialogic reading with is “Stuck” by Oliver Jeffers. This book is overflowing with items to discuss on each page and the story is hilarious.

Seriously, if this is the book that you have to reread, like I did, you will be ever grateful for all of the different images to discuss together.

I also love encouraging children to guess what will happen next in every book that is read to them. This opportunity allows them to comprehend what has already happened in the book and also opens the door to expand their imagination.

“Little Red Riding Hood: A New Fangled Prairie Tale” by Lisa Campbell Ernst is an amazing book to read aloud and discuss together. You and your audience will enjoy the different take on this classic tale.

“The Whisper” by Pamela Zagarenski is a magical book and perfect for dialogic reading. It is a wonderful story where a young girl starts trying to come up with her own stories.

Dipping her mind and imagination into something new and challenging brings great joy to her by the end of the book. We each can bring something different to the same story with use of dialogic reading.

September is also National Library Card Sign Up Month! This is a swell time to get your child a library card. A Library Card Day party for kids will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21.

Visit the library for read-alouds, games, prizes, and an opportunity to meet Elephant and Piggie, two lovable characters from Mo Willems’ beginning reader series.

The library is a great place to expand on early literacy. Nine storytimes are offered per week at the Manhattan Public Library, along with other programs for children that are free to the public.

Please come join in the fun and the gathering of community while we work together to instill a lifelong love of reading to the children of this area.

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