Using Dialogic Reading Techniques for Early Literacy – Guest Post by Tico Ballagas

| June 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending AppFest, the opening afternoon of Dust or Magic’s App Camp in Monterrey, CA. While there, I met many talented folks, including Dr. Tico Ballagas, creator of a new app called Kindoma

Our family tried this new, free app and it is really unique. Initially you download the app to two different iPads (anywhere in the world – using email accounts that are easy to set up). Then you can video chat within the app while reading a small but growing selection of children’s books together. Instead of having narrated books or a way to record, this app lets you connect with your child’s favorite storytellers directly, in real time. After using this intuitive and well-designed app, it wasn’t hard to see why it received the 2013 Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review. In addition, Kindoma has a wonderful blog with great resource articles like this one about early literacy:

Kindoma makes sharing stories and reading with distant loved ones easy & fun …

Educational research demonstrates that the more children talk about a book during the reading experience, the better their vocabulary development.  Russ Whitehurst and his colleagues at The Stony Brook Reading and Language Project have pioneered a method of reading with preschoolers known as dialogic reading.  Dialogic reading is a method designed to get children to talk more during book reading sessions.  At a high level, the technique involves prompting the child with questions, and then building upon their responses by rephrasing and adding information.  Each time you read the same book using dialogic reading, the children should be doing more and more of the storytelling.

The key to effective dialogic reading is how to prompt children to say things.  Whitehurst and colleagues have identified five types of prompts, represented by the acronym CROWD.   Here is an explanation of each type of prompt including ideas of how to leverage them inside Kindoma Storytime.

  • Completion prompts:  These prompts use the classic ‘fill-in-the-blank’ mechanic.  Parents leave words out and get children to fill in the word.  For example, “This is a cat, he has a ____”, letting the child fill in the blank hat. These prompts help children grasp the structure of language.  In Kindoma Storytime, you can also point to the image of the hat to help children identify the matching word.
  • Recall prompts:  These prompts get children to recount what has happened in the story.  For example, “Can you tell me what happened to the three little pigs.”  Recall prompts help children grasp story plot and event sequencing.

Family Reading Together (San Jose Library, 2008)

  • Open-ended prompts:  In books with rich illustrations, you may ask a child “Tell me what’s happening on this page.”  Model using the pointing finger for the child and encourage the child to point to things as they are discussing them.  These prompts help promote expressive fluency and attention to detail.
  • Wh- prompts: Asking kids questions that start with what, when, where, why around illustrations helps to develop a child’s vocabulary.  For example, “What material is this pig using to build his house?”  while pointing at the house.
  • Distancing prompts: These prompts help relate images and words in the stories to their own lives.  While pointing to an image of an alligator, say “Remember when we went to the zoo and saw alligators?  What other animals did we see?”

Lots of research demonstrates that dialogic reading works! As Russ Whitehurst says himself:

“Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. We have found these effects with hundreds of children in areas as geographically different as New York, Tennessee, and Mexico, in settings as varied as homes, preschools, and daycare centers, and with children from economic backgrounds ranging from poverty to affluence.”

We hope these tips improve your Storytime!  Remember to have fun and follow your child’s interests to get them talking.

Dr. Rafael ‘Tico’ Ballagas is the Co-founder & CEO of Kindoma where he is creating products to connect children with their long distance loved ones through reading activities. Before Kindoma, Tico was at Nokia Research Center where he lead the research and development of a multi-year exploration on technologies to help families read books together at a distance (see Tico has a PhD in computer science with a focus on Human-Computer Interaction.

Originally Posted on May 9, 2013 by Tico Ballagas, in the Kindoma blog.

 You can download the Kindoma app on iTunes. 

 Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 6.0 or later.

 *Free at time of publication.

Category: All About Apps, Guest Posts, iPads in Education

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.