Using Mariposa, Mariposa (Butterfly, Butterfly) to Promote Dialogic Reading: A Powerful Way to Encourage Language Development in One or More Languages

Dialogic reading strategies are among the most powerful techniques adults can use to promote children’s language and literacy development. Teaching teams will learn techniques for encouraging language development in one or more languages.

The National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) confirmed that dialogic reading strategies, a purposeful way to read interactively with children, are among the most powerful techniques adults can use to promote children’s language and literacy development.1

Numerous studies have shown that dialogic strategies are successful across a wide range of languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hmong, Korean, and Cantonese as well as with children with disabilities. In fact, dialogic reading strategies promote children’s abilities in their first and second languages.

The goal of dialogic interactions is to engage a child in a conversation (dialog) and keep it going so the child has the opportunity to learn new concepts and words, practice using her words, and form longer phases and sentences. It is important that children have many opportunities to be read to in the language/s they speak and in English.

An easy way to remember some basic dialogic strategies is to “Follow the CAR.”2 Follow the CAR is an acronym that helps teaching staff and families remember key dialogic strategies, which can be used when reading books with children and in day-to-day conversational interactions. Follow the CAR stands for:

  • Follow the child’s lead
  • Comment and wait
  • Ask questions and wait
  • Respond by adding a little more and wait

When adults follow the child’s lead and choose to talk or read about something a child is interested in, the child is more likely to engage in the interaction and to keep participating in the conversation. Waiting silently five or more seconds for a child to answer, gives the child time to think about what was said, find the words he knows to answer the question, and frame the response in the best way possible. When adults rush a response the child is more likely to give a short answer and use simpler words and phrases. Waiting encourages the child to say as much as she can and to try new and different vocabulary.

A simple, short comment made after a child makes a statement, gives the child the opportunity to continue the conversation, provides her with new words, and sets up the back and forth pattern of a conversation. For example, a young child points to a picture of a dog and says, “Big dog,” and the adult comments, “He is big.” When the adult makes this comment and waits, it is clear that the adult has heard the child and wants to continue the conversation but not to take charge it.

Asking questions is an important way to help children practice their language, think about ways to put concepts into words, and expand their thinking beyond the present reality. When adults respectfully wait for an answer they communicate that the child’s thoughts and words are valuable and worthwhile. Research shows that when adults ask five specific kinds of questions children are able to expand many key language and literacy skills. The word “CROWD” is used to help parents and teachers remember the five kinds of questions.3

  • C – Completion questions
    • “Five little monkeys jumping on the _____” The child fills in “bed” to use a new and participate in completing the thought.
  • R – Recall questions
    • What happens after the wolf huffs and puffs? The child recalls the story and puts that into her own words.
  • O – Open-ended questions
    • “Tell me what is happening in this picture.” The child practices putting his own thoughts into words.
  • W –“ Wh” questions (Who, what, why, when, where”)
    • What is that? Why is that happening? At many different levels children can put their thoughts into words.
  • D – Distancing questions
    • What happened when we made your birthday cake? Children remember past events and relate them to the present and future.

Responding by adding a little more provides a child the opportunity to learn more words, ideas, more complicated grammar, and extends conversations. For example, a child says, “I go school” and the adult responds, “Yes, you are going to school with Mary’s Mom today.”

Using the correct dialogic reading strategy at the right time requires adults to know each child, his interests and response time, her level of language development, and have the ability to select the correct technique for each circumstance. The strength of the positive impact on children [and] frequent use of dialogic strategies is well worth the time and practice involved in mastering the skill.

Below we provide an example of a dialogic reading activity using a book in Spanish: Mariposa, Mariposa by Petr Horácek. In this case, the featured story Mariposa, Mariposa (Butterfly, Butterfly) is a colorful, eye-catching and charming hardback which presents particular vocabulary that is preschool age appropriate (and can also be useful for monolingual English speaking teachers to build on their own vocabulary in Spanish) through simple action-verbs in the present tense. The vocabulary words focus on garden bugs and colors. As always, when choosing books to read with children it is important to know the individual children and the group so you can determine if the particular book is appropriate for all children. This book has been successfully used with children as well as staff and parents to teach techniques for reading to children and conversations about the importance of speaking.

It is important that childen have many opportunties to be read to in the language they speak and in English. One way to use this story is to follow the previously mentioned strategies (CAR) and use the examples of CROWD questions in Spanish attached at the end... Please note that because the CROWD acronym does not make sense in Spanish, we have replaced these steps with numbers and named this section: Cinco Pasos … (5 Steps to Dialogic Reading).

Another way to consider using this story when a teacher does not speak Spanish, is to ask a Spanish speaking staff member, volunteer, parent or university student to read in the classroom. Teachers or Education Managers can meet with the “story-reader” earlier to discuss the vocabulary and share the goal of the activity and discuss dialogic reading strategies. At the end... you will find the entire version in Spanish and the explanation of CROWD in Spanish in a separate sheet. This will be helpful if you prefer to use one or both, depending on the level of understanding of the person who is going to be doing the activity.

And last, have lots of fun and enjoy the story!

As is commonly said in Spanish-speaking cultures… Colorín, colorado, este cuento se ha acabado.

Using Mariposa, Mariposa (Butterfly, Butterfly) to Promote Dialogic Reading:
Examples of CROWD Questions

  • C – Completion questions
    • ““The story is about a girl who was playing in the _____”; “The girl was in the garden and found a ______.”
    • The child fills in garden or butterfly to use a new word and participate in completing the thought.
  • R – Recall questions
    • What did the girl find on the ground? Can you tell me what the worm was doing on the ground?
    • The child recalls the story and puts that into her own words.
  • O – Open-ended questions
    • “Tell me what is happening in this picture of Lucía in the backyard/garden.” (this question works well on the page where Lucía cannot find the butterfly and searches all around her).
    • The child practices putting his own thoughts into words.
  • W –“ Wh” questions (Who, what, why, when, where”)
    • Why is Lucía searching for the butterfly? What do you think  butterflies like to do? Why is Lucía happy at the end of the story?
    • At many different levels children can put their thoughts into words.
  • D – Distancing questions
    • Have you ever felt happy when you are outside? What do you like to do when you are outside? What bugs have you seen in the garden? Do you know any other bug name for “mariquita”? (explain that Spanish-speakers from different places use names such as “vaquita de San Antonio” or “bichito de la buenasuerte” or
    • Children remember past events and relate them to the present and future.

To learn more about dialogic reading, consider using the following resources:

Websites

Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers. Reading Rockets

Engaging Children in Conversations comprehensive set of resources for professional development providers that are part of the 15-minute in-service suites.

Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program Dialogic Reading: Introducing the Strategy VPK teacher Toolkit.

Journal Articles

Leyendo juntos (reading together): New directions for Latino parents' early literacy involvement. Ortiz, Robert W., Ordonez-Jasis, Rosario. 2005 Volume 59, Issue 2 Pages 110-121. The Reading Teacher. International Reading Association.

Research

U.S. Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse. Intervention: Dialogic Reading.

Child Trends. Dialogic Reading Overview.

Best Evidence Encyclopedia: Effective Beginning Reading Programs: A Best-Evidence Synthesis [PDF, 1.72KB]

The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction [PDF, 325KB]


1National Early Literacy Panel. (2009). Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, Executive Summary. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.

2Language is Key. Washington Learning Systems.

3Whitehurst, G. J. & Lonigan, C. J. (1998). Child Development and Emergent Literacy. Child Development, 69, 848-872.

Topic:Culture and Language

Keywords:Dual language learnersTeaching practicesLiteracyPreschool children

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