woman reading a book to the children

What is Dialogic Reading?

A primer

If you’ve never heard the term before, dialogic reading can seem a bit daunting. We didn’t do that when I was a kid. What kind of sorcery is this? Is this new math related? Believe it or not, these are all comments I’ve heard in relation to a relatively easy, valuable tool that you can use to improve your child’s reading comprehension skills, starting at the preschool level and continuing even through middle grade! [Honestly, even full-fledged adults can have fun with dialogic reading.]

So, what is it? At its most basic level, dialogic reading is an exploration of a book with the child, as opposed to reading a book for or to a child. Dialogic reading encourages exploration through prompting, leading and evaluating all the while encouraging the development of vocabulary by extending what’s on the page through discussion between the adult and the child. You can find a more robust explanation here and here.

So, what kind of book is suitable for dialogic reading? Virtually any picture book is suitable for dialogic reading. I, however, like to start the exploration of dialogic reading with wordless picturebooks because they encourage (indeed require) interactive participation between the readers and the book. Without text present, readers must supply the vocabulary narrative to fill-in the story. Adults can assist children with completion, open ended, and distancing prompts, reinforcing the child’s vocabulary and expanding it at the same time. Revisiting the book over time, lends to deepening examinations and further vocabulary and nuance development.

As eloquently stated by Reading Rockets (linked above) “dialogic reading is just children and adults having a conversation about a book.” Have you tried this at home? In your classroom? Practice? Below are some of my favorite wordless picturebooks. What are some of yours?


The Farmer Series

I strongly recommend The Farmer and the Clown, The Farmer and the Monkey, and The Farmer and the Circus as a series, and in that order. What you’ll get is a teary-eyed story of unexpected family, love and belonging — all without words. The Farmer Box Set (Support an Independent Bookstore)* The Farmer Box Set (Amazon)*

The Return

Perspective is everything in this charming story about a woman returning from the city to visit her family in the country. She comes home towering and looming large, but quickly shrinks down to size? Many interpretations abound. The Return (Support an Independent Bookstore)* The Return (Amazon)*

Sidewalk Flowers

All unbeknownst to the world around them, a child picks up flowers and makes anonymous gifts of them. What impact, if any will those anonymous acts have? Why does the child leave the flowers? This book is ripe for robust discussion! Sidewalk Flowers (Support an Independent Bookstore)* Sidewalk Flowers (Amazon)*


My thanks to Beach Lane Books and Groundwood Books for providing review copies of these amazing books. All opinions provided herein are my own.

More books for this Age Group can be found here and here.

Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.

*When something is purchased using one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission. We do not accept any monies for any editorial reviews. Our opinions, to the chagrin of many, are our own.

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