Cheri Gipson 5 min read

Best Way to Read to Kids: Dialogic Reading for Speech & Language Development

Focusing on a book can become an adventure with dialogic reading for speech therapy can create good foundational skills for reading, speech and language development. Hint: you are probably doing some of this already!

Did you know that reading is essential for speech and language development? Reading to your toddler can expand their language, better prepare them for school and help them to succeed in a classroom environment.
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Reading books with our children has been a tradition for many families, generation after generation. In my family, we were fortunate enough to have bookshelves with books to explore. Many of us recognize that reading to our children is one of the best ways to nourish a love for reading, which will in turn set them up to be ready to read when they enter kindergarten and first grade.

How reading helps dialogic speech and language development

Children who hear more vocabulary words are better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school. And this goes beyond the typical vocabulary, which we as parents and caregivers use in our daily routines with young kids. It also encompasses some of the language that’s utilized in the classroom, which is also encountered in books.

It’s one thing for a child to use the tools to sound out words and read phonetically, but they also need to to know the meaning of the word. For example, in the classroom, when teachers give students directions, they use words like:

  • First,
  • Next, or
  • Last.

These are common words used in literature, but not always in our everyday language. So by reading and focusing on the different vocabulary, they can start to understand these words and their meaning, to be better prepared for the classroom.

1 x 1 = 290,000? Reading exponentially expands vocabulary…

In a ,study conducted by Jessica Logan, at The Ohio State University, it was estimated that kids who are read one book per day, will hear about 290,000 more words by age five!

Reading to your child gets even more beneficial using dialogic reading and speech therapy

Simply reading the words on the page, and your child will definitely benefit. But let’s take a look at how we can take things to the next level by using a proven technique, which is called dialogic book reading.

When you’re reading some of your child’s favorite bedtime stories, dialogic book reading is interactive, and effective for children of all ages and levels. It works with both fiction and nonfiction books, and it is child centered. It’s a method for developing literacy skills, expanding vocabulary, and teaching learners to become better readers. These key concepts include improving the child skills and print awareness, oral language skills, and comprehension.

Did you know you can also develop stronger empathy with dialogic reading?

There is also another bonus that children receive when they are read together with a parent using dialogic book reading. And this is that concept of improving empathy. When you pair reading fiction books, which are focused on character development, rather than simply the plot, these types of stories can be extremely effective in helping develop empathy in young children. That is a core value that will be with them throughout their lives.

Speech therapy for child and adult

How to read using dialogic reading for improved speech and language development

A simple way to start with dialogic reading, is to follow the P.E.E.R. approach:

P: Prompt your child about the text,
E: Evaluate the response your child gives you,
E: Expand on the answer, and then
R: Rephrase the initial prompt.

dialogic reading for speech therapy

First, Prompt your child to say something about the text.

For example, you might show the Humpty Dumpty book, and point to the title, saying,
“Humpty Dumpty,” and ask “who is this book about? What do you think the character’s name is?”
You can draw attention to the picture and refer back to the text, Humpty Dumpty.

Next, Evaluate how your child is responding.

If your child says it a little differently, Humpy Dumpy, you can say, “oh, it’s HumpTy DumpTy,” helping them understand the correct pronunciation of the word.

Then, Expand on their response.

Expanding the response, you can say, “what does Humpty Dumpty look like?” or “Is Humpty Dumpty wearing a hat?” “What is Humpty Dumpty?” and continue to tell you what Humpty Dumpty looks like.

Then, you can Rephrase the initial prompt to determine if your child has picked up the expansion and learning.

Circle back to your original prompt, and now ask “What are we going to read about?” And based on the answer, you can move ahead!

C.R.O.W.D. – The next level in dialogic reading for speech development

Let’s talk about how we can cue our child to respond when we are engaging in dialogic book reading. While PEER is the approach, CROWD acts as a queuing system. (These terms seem a little confusing, but with a little practice, it will become second-nature and very simple!).

And when your child responds to you, you will naturally begin to ask more questions using C.R.O.W.D:

C: Completion prompts
R: Recall prompts
O: Open-ended prompts
W: “Wh” questions (Why, Where, etc)
D: Distancing prompts

Completion prompts are those you ask to complete a sentence.

Staying with Humpty, you might say “This story is about Humpty _____,” or after reading about how Humpty went to visit the farmer’s wife, you might say “Humpty went next door to see the _____ ______.”

Use Recall prompts to confirm something they learned previously in the story.

This may feel repetitive, but as you move along in the story, you will have more details to choose from, such as, “was Humpty wearing a hat?” or “where was the farmer’s wife?”

Open-ended prompts challenge your child to think more deeply about the text.

These are specific to the story but are asking questions such as “How does the farmer’s wife feel when Humpty visits?” If your child needs a little help, you can offer a choice, such as “was the farmer’s wife happy when Humpty came over?”
The more advanced your child gets, you can ask more complex questions, or include ordering, like “what was the first thing that Humpty asked for? Now, what do you think Humpty will do next?”


Use “Wh” questions to extend the other prompts.

“Why?” “Where,” “When,” “Who,” or “What” questions let you ask a variety of questions that can be simple or more complex.
“What does Humpty look like?” or “What is Humpty holding?” to “Why do you think Humpty did that?”


And lastly, Distancing prompts let you make connections to other parts of your child’s life.

With these questions, you are going to bring in your child’s outside experience, their background knowledge about things and their world.
Once again, these may be more simple like “Humpty has a hat, do you have a hat? Where is your hat?” or more complex such as “Would you wear a hat like Humpty’s? Where would you wear that hat?”


The most important part of reading to your child, of course, is that it’s an activity that you are doing together. This is an activity that will build bonds, create traditions and memories, along with the benefits for their speech and language development.

C.R.O.W.D. -  The next level in dialogic reading for speech development