Author Archives: Josh Craig

Story time? Start talking!

Ever think to yourself, “There has to be a way of reading with kids that’s more fun and engaging,” or “This book would be great, except it has too many words”?

Well, think to yourself no longer, and start talking! Dialogic reading is a great way to engage with children, and it’s all about creating a conversation using the book at hand. You don’t have to read the words, and in fact I recommend you NOT read the book word for word but rather LOOK at the pictures and TALK about what you see. Children learn more from an open-ended and interactive activity where they have control over input and direction. This could not be truer than in the emergent reader!

Since this method relies on the conversation, it switches the traditional roles we play when we think of reading with children. Typically we think of reading where the adult reads the words while the child listens; in effect the child becomes a passive listener. In dialogic reading, the adult prompts the child into conversation and, depending on the child’s response, expands on what they said. With dialogic reading, the child becomes an active participant.

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library.

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library.

Great prompting questions when you’re reading might be: “What do you see?” “What do you think is happening?” “What do you think might happen next?” Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. You are simply talking about what the child sees and they can have pretty extravagant imaginations! You have the opportunity to build children’s vocabularies by providing them with new words, and can also expand their knowledge by offering new contexts and asking them to reflect on their own experiences.

I find this method also works very well when introducing a book for the first time. As you “walk” through the book and talk about the pictures children gain a sense of what is happening and begin to make predictions for what comes next, an important cognitive skill to develop.

When we allow a child to express themselves, whether right or wrong, accurate or incorrect, we allow them to think creatively about what they see and think about the world around them. The details and getting the answer right are not important at this time (they’ll get that later). Dialogic reading creates the freedom for a story typically presented in a formal book format to take on a new life. It allows for natural discovery and for new interpretations of what is seen.

Some great books to consider for Dialogic Reading are:

  • Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu
  • Any of the many excellent books from Books by Tara
  • And then it’s Spring by Julie Fogliano
  • The Bear and Friends series by Karma Wilson
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley
  • Not A Box by Antoinnette Portis
  • Rosies Walk by Pat Hutchins
  • The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  • Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

But you can use any book, anywhere!

– Josh

The Most Important Work

Being an early childhood professional has got to be one of the most demanding career choices one can make. I commend all the professionals in this field, regardless of gender, for helping to make our young children the proudest, smartest and most dignified future leaders.

That said, I am a guy (and apparently from Mars, which sometimes I feel like going back to). When I tell people I work in the field of early childhood, sometimes I think they’re wondering, is he lost? Others might say I chose a path of least resistance, an easy job. Yeah, right. One that pays too little and makes me pull what little is left of my hair out!

Early childhood education is anything but easy. In an ever changing world, early childhood education presents itself as one the most dynamic career choices one could make. Did I know this going into it? As my son says, “Probably… just a little,” his voice rising on the supposition and dead flat on the definitive, face scrunched up like he’s really thinking about it. But I really had no idea just how demanding my career choice would be.

For those who don’t think I’m lost or looking for an easy job, I am treading bold waters. But I like to think I am getting back to my roots, in more ways than one.

Men have always been teachers. We’ve come a long way from accepting a chicken as payment for endowing young hearts and minds with knowledge and wisdom (though I will still gladly receive a chicken as payment), and a lot has changed. Few men enter the field of early care and education, undoubtedly because recent history has taught us not to. Our numbers have seized to just a trickle, though in the past few years I have begun to see those numbers rise. And why shouldn’t they? For some years now we have talked about creating a more exacting representation of the world around us in the early childhood classroom. We have talked about diversity and the need to reflect that in our environments. We discuss the importance in the development of a young child’s self-efficacy and self-esteem and the correlating importance of having gender specific role models. So, where are you, men? Don’t you see this is THE important work to do?