Bilingual child sings along to the Spanish nursery rhymes Binibi's interactive musical book for toddlers, Los Pollitos Dicen & Other Nursery Rhymes.

Encouraging Bilingualism Through Dialogic Reading- Part 1

Think back to a high school or college lecture where the class subject may have been difficult, but the way your teacher went about explaining it made all the difference in your success. Did you ever have a professor who used vivid imagery and applicable real-life examples or simply had a unique way of elaborating upon a topic through conversation that helped you remember and understand the course material more easily? 

Well, parents, we’re here to tell you that the same applies to your reading experience when helping your little ones learn a second language! Engaging your child in a dialogue or ongoing conversation while reading is known as “dialogic reading”, a practice that truly enriches the reading experience, and, more importantly, helps children grasp a second language more easily and enhance their vocabulary as they are exposed to new words more often. In other words, try to be the awesome teacher who uses relatable and engaging conversation to make difficult topics, or words, easier to understand!

It’s important to note that even before babies can talk or engage in reading bilingual baby books, they can listen and absorb everything you are saying! For this reason, it’s important to have a conversation with your baby when you are reading so that you can give them as much exposure as possible to the language you want them to learn! Using bilingual books for kids, specifically books with sound, can make this process easier as they not only provide exposure to both languages, but make the experience interactive and fun for little ones.

Here are four simple steps you can follow to achieve dialogic reading– keep the acronym “PEER” in mind to help you remember them:

  • Prompt your child to say something about the book. This can include asking different questions, pointing out objects in the illustrations and commenting on them, imitating and acting out the noises you hear in a sound book or singing along and discussing the popular nursery rhymes in musical books
  • Evaluate their response; wait to see what your child shows interest in. Having many conversations together about topics that genuinely interest your child is a great and effective way to promote language development. A child can express their interest by waving, babbling or using words as they get older. 
  • Expand on what they say. As you follow your child’s lead, continue to elaborate upon their expressed interests to keep them engaged and interested. 
  • Repeat the prompt to ensure comprehension. Touch upon the topic again to reinforce the idea and ensure that your child has the opportunity to hear the new words in context, and understand their meanings, one more time. 

The goal of dialogic reading is to engage in a conversation with your child, going beyond the words written in a book. While reading the text in a book is definitely great for introducing new vocabulary and concepts, there are so many benefits to taking your reading experience a step further through dialogic reading. Doing so not only promotes more advanced vocabulary learning, but also verbal language skills as they learn to use these new words in visual and verbal context. 

To learn more about dialogic reading, click here. Stay tuned for more on how you can apply dialogic reading to your collection of Binibi bilingual children's books.