Culture and Language

Using "Tough Boris" to Promote Dialogic Reading Strategies

Children make great gains in literacy when they are engaged in conversation before, during, and after storytelling. This dialogic reading strategy is used to increase vocabulary and language development in young children. Teaching teams may use the Tough Boris example as a way to introduce dialogic reading.

Reading Activity Part 1

Every month, teachers will find dialogic reading activities they can use in any Head Start classroom. Dialogic reading is a way of talking and interacting with children about a book. This activity can be very effective in classrooms with more than one language. Research tells us that children make great gains in language and literacy development if we take the time to repeat stories and engage in conversations about them. Each month, we will present a storybook and a two-part reading activity in English and in Spanish. Check back each month for the next part of the series!

  1. Show the book and ask children what they think the story will be about.
  2. Point out key words or ideas to help get the children ready for the story.
  3. Read the book from beginning to end just as the author wrote it, and use as much expression and gesture as you can.
  4. The next time you read the book, and each time after that, let the children tell more and more of the story. Notice new words, interesting ideas and silly actions and talk about them.
  5. If the book is available in two or more languages, read them at separate times of the day or over a two-day period. It is just as helpful for the Spanish-speaking children to hear English stories as it is for English-speaking children to hear stories in other languages.
  6. Print out this form [PDF, 25KB]. If you fill it in and tape it to the back of the book, you will have a great new literacy source ready for you or anyone else who reads this book to your children!

Reading Activity Part I Example Worksheet

Title: Tough Boris
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Kathryn Brown

What’s the story about: “Boris is a mean, greedy old pirate—tough as nails, through and through, like all pirates. Or is he?”

Key words:

  • Massive (big, tall, large); grande
  • Scruffy (dirty, sloppy, messy, whiskery); desaliñado
  • Greedy (really want something for yourself, want to keep everything); avaro
  • Fearless (not afraid, brave); temerario
  • Parrot (large, colorful bird that talks); loro, papagayo
  • Tough (strong, not easily hurt); duro

Main ideas: Have you ever had a pet that you love die? How did you feel? What did you do?

Things that repeat: Do you see something on this page that we saw on other pages? (i.e. parrot)

Reading Activity Part 2

  1. Now that you’ve read the book several times and gone over some of the key points and words, use large group, small group, or individual readings of the same book to ask thinking questions.
  2. One method is called CROWD. That stands for:
    a. Completion questions (fill in the blank)
    b. Recall questions (ask children if they remember something about the story)
    c. Open-ended questions (encourage more than one word answers)
    d. Wh- questions (such as what, when, how and why)
    e. Distancing questions (these make children think about how this story relates to other books or activities in their lives)
  3. This Part 2 form can also be printed and taped into the book to make a literacy source ready for you or anyone else who reads this book to your children.

Reading Activity Part 2 Example Worksheet

Title: Tough Boris
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Kathryn Brown

Completion Questions: Boris is a tough _________? Boris has a pet _________?

Recall Questions: "We learned the word for parrot in Spanish. What is it? What happens next in the story?"

Open-Ended Questions: "What happened when you lost something you loved? Do you see someone on this page who might be afraid? Why are they afraid?"

Why Questions: "Why is he crying? What happened when his parrot died?"

Distancing Questions: "Who else cries? When was the last time you cried? How can you help someone feel better if they are crying?"

Silly Questions: "Do people cry when they are happy?"

Modified from the OHS Innovation and Improvement Award, PEECSE project - Utah State University and Ogden Weber Community Action Partnership Head Start.