2013. Vol.4, No.9, 14-17
Published Online September 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2013.49B004
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Measuring the Effect That the Partners’ Dialogic Reading
Program Has on Preschool Children’s Expressive Language
Diana Bra nnon1,2, Li nda Dauks as1,2, Nancy Coleman1,2,
Laura Israelson1,2, Tionia Williams1,2
1Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, USA
2Valley View Early Childhood Center District 365U, Romeoville, USA
Received June 2013
The effect the Parents as Reading Partners Nightly Encouraging Reading Success (PARTNERS) Dialogic
Reading Program had on preschool children’s expressive language was studied. Researchers found that
the videotaped training and materials were successful at increasing the expressive language skills of pre-
school children classified as “at risk”. Other program benefits such as increased time spent on reading and
talking between parents and their children were also found.
Keywords: Dialogic Reading; Parent Involvement; Preschool Expressive Language
Reading aloud to children provides many benefits. Research
has shown that reading to young children increases their future
litera cy achievement (Moore & Wade, 2003), increases vocabu-
lary , knowledge of print (Reese & Cox, 1999), language acqui-
sition, early reading performance, and school success (Snow,
Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Although the benefits of reading aloud
are extensive, reading aloud often limits a child’s involvement
in the reading process to more of a passive role.
Dialogic reading, a form of shared reading, is an interactive
process in which parents or caregivers and their children share
about a book they are reading or looking at together. Dialogic
reading has been found to have similar benefits to reading aloud,
positively impacting many aspects of children’s literacy devel-
opment (Philips, Hayde n, & Norris, 2006; Shapiro, Anderson,
& Anderson, 2002). However, because the focus of dialogic
reading is verbal interactions between caregivers and their chil-
dren, it also can be used to increase young children’s expressive
language and spoken vocabulary.
Dialogic reading utilizes open-ended questions to expand on
children’s comments and ideas. The program is based on en-
couraging children’s participation, providing feedback, and ad-
justing verbal interactions based on children’s ability (White-
hurst, Arnold, Epstein, Angell, Smith, & Fischel, 1994). Child-
ren’s language usage is positively impacted by parents expand-
ing on their conversations, redirecting the conversation to en-
courage the use particular types of language (e.g. descriptive
words), and encouraging increasingly complex word choices a s
children’s language develops (Snow, 1983). Dialogic reading
has been shown to increase young children’s vocabulary (Har-
grave & Sénéchal, 2000; Whitehurst, Falco, Lonigan, Fischel,
Arnold, Lonigan, Whitehurst, & Epstein, 1994) and expressive
language (Hargrave & Sénéchal, 2000).
There are very limited materials available to help preschool
teachers teach dialogic reading strategies to the families that
they serve. The PARTNERS (Parents as Reading Teachers
Nightly Encouraging Reading Success) Program was designed
by one of the authors to provide dialogic training materials for
families regardless of their literacy levels, langua ge proficiency,
or children’s expressive language skills. The program focuses
on parents’ and c aregivers’ verbal interactions with their child-
ren instead of the adult’s reading skills.
The current study is designed to measure the PARTNERS
Program’s effectiveness at increasing the expressive language
skills of young children classified as “at risk”. Children and
families in this study attend a public early childhood center in a
suburb of Chicago. The program offers early childhood educa-
tion for preschool age students (3 and 4 year olds). All of the
children attending the school have some type of delay, special
need, or qualify through the Preschool for All program funded
through the State of Illinois to serve preschool children identi-
fied as “at risk”.
Parti ci pa nt s
Thirteen families participated in the twelve-week PARTNE RS
dialogic reading intervention. An additional thirteen families
served as the control group, receiving no training in dialogic
reading. Both parents and extended family caregivers were in-
volved in the program.
The children and families in the control group were selected
based on age and qualifying factors in order to make the two
groups comparable (Table 1). The average age of children in
both the PARTNERS training and control group was 4 years, 8
months. A majority of the children in both groups spoke a lan-
guage other than English at home in addition to English.
Students’ expressive language was measured using the pic-
ture-naming portion of the Individual Growth Developmental
Indicators (IGDI) test developed at the University of Minnesota.
D. BRANNON ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Children’s preschool qualifying factors.
PARTNERS Traini n g
(n = 13) Contr ol Group
(n = 13)
Developmental Delay 8 8
Speech Language 1 2
Preschool for All 4 3
Students taking the picture-naming test were presented with
pictures on individual cards. They were asked to name the ob-
jects on as many of the cards as they could in one minute. The
number of words correctly identified was recorded by the test
administrator. Students’ picture naming ability was assessed
prior to the start of the study and twelve weeks later, a t the end
of the study.
All of the families receiving the PARTNERS intervention
were invited to a brief thirty-minute introduction to the
PARTNERS Program. The introduction was designed to pro-
vide participants an initial opportunity to watch the 12-minute
PARTNERS video training together and receive materials. Of
the thirteen families, only four were able to attend. Therefore,
most of the program participants did not receive any in person
information about the program. The video, the first children’s
book, and the corresponding Parent Notes were sent home to
families who did not attend the training the first week of the
study. No additional dialogic reading training was given to the
people who were able to attend the introductory meeting. So,
the training for both groups of families was the same. All fami-
lies involved in the training were given the PARTNERS train-
ing video to keep regardless of whether they viewed the train-
ing at school or not.
Video training was provided because it is an easy and eco-
nomical way to provide traini ng to families. Arnold, e t al. (1994)
found that using a videotape to teach the dialogic reading me-
thod worked effectively to increase parents’ use of dialogic
reading skills. However, the generalizability of this finding is
greatly limited because all of the children in the study had av-
erage or above average expressive and receptive language skills
and came from middle or upper Socio-Economic Status (SES)
families. Research by both Briesch, Chafouleas, Lebel, & Blom-
Hoffman (2008) and Blom-Hoffman, O’Neil-Pirozzi, & Cutting
(2006) found that videotaped instruction was effective for par-
ent instruction in dialogic reading. Both study samples were
more diverse than the previous study regarding SES; however,
all of the participants’ primary language in both studies was
English. Therefore, there is still a need for research on the ef-
fectiveness of using videotaped dialogic reading instruction
with low-income families, families whose primary language is
not English, and with children classified as “at-risk”.
The dialogic reading training provided on the video training
used the acronym DARE to help parents learn the dialogic
reading strategy. The DARE strategy, developed by the author,
asks caregivers to:
Discuss the book with their child and ask their child to talk
about what he sees. After their child answers, they should ex-
pand upon their child’s response adding more detail, and then
ask their child to repeat the extended response.
Ask their child questions about the pictures and teach new
vocabulary related to the illustrations.
Read the story to their child.
Encourage thei r child to connect the story to his life.
Participants were asked to read with their child for 10 - 15
minutes a day. However, all of the steps in the DARE strategy
did not need to be implemented each day. Parents were instruc-
ted to decide how they would use the DARE time. For example,
they could spend two or three days discussing what their child
sees before moving on to asking questions or reading to their
Preschool children brought home a book from the
PARTNERS Program in their backpack each Monday. Training
materials called Parent Notes were also included. The Parent
Notes remind caregivers of the DARE strategy, provide sample
questions to ask children about the book, and offer suggestions
for vocabulary words related to the story that can be introduced.
The books in the PARTNERS Program provided detailed
and varied illustrations including culturally relevant items chil-
dren are familiar with that could be used for discussion and re-
telling. All books selected included a simple story line that was
interesting and culturally relevant to the children in the program.
The books selected also supported preschool skills needed ac-
cording to The Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum
for Ages 3-5. Therefore, they were chosen because of their ap-
propriateness to address cognitive development, logical think-
ing, language development, emergent literacy, and social/emo-
tional development. The books focused on fiction, folk tales,
fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and informational text. Although
the program is offered in both English and Spanish, only Eng-
lish materials were used for this study.
At the end of the twelve week PARTNERS program, child-
ren in both groups were again administered the picture-naming
portion of the Individual Growth Developmental Indicators
(IGDI) test. Table 2 shows that although there was no signifi-
cant difference in the number of words children were able to
name at the pr e-test, children whose families participated in the
PARTNERS Program acquired significantly more words (p
< .01) from pre-test to post-test than children in the traditional
Families in the PARTNERS program were also provided
with a feedback sheet each week with the book that they were
reading. They were asked “What effect has participating in the
PARTNERS Program had on your reading time?” (Table 3).
In addition to collecting feedback through the form sent
home, six parents also volunteered to provide feedback by
Children’s picture naming results.
Training (N = 13)
(N = 13)
Pre-Test Pos t-Tes t Pre-T est Pos t-T est
M M M M
Number Correct 18.00 22.38* 17.00 19.69
*p < .01.
D. BRANNON ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Feedback regarding the program.
Number of Families
(n = 13) Percentage of
Increased conversation 9 69
Encouraged questioning 7 54
Increased time reading 5 42
Increased child’s interest 3 23
Provided ne w ideas 2 15
Made reading more fun 2 15
Increased language 2 15
Provided new books 1 8
participating in a group interview. Participants were asked to
share: “How has this program affected the time you spend with
your child reading?” and “How does your child respond to your
time reading together?” Parents shared that the PARTNERS
program was effective in helping them spend time each day
with their child reading. One parent shared, “It makes me take
that time for him. He wants to read more. This has made it
more fun. He asks questions.” A similar comment was made by
another parent, “Before the program I would just read. I think
sometimes I was rushing. Now we spend the time. I’m reading
more with them and they’re getting into it.”
The program was also effective at increasing interactions
between parents and their children. One parent explained the
program’s effect on her child’s language by stating, “It’s in-
creased the amount of time we spend together. It’s helped his
English a lot. I’m surprised how much time he wants to spend
talking about the book.” Another shared her doubts, “I was
skeptical that asking questions would do anything. But, it rea lly
has. It’s opened him up to other things.”
Many of the parents explained that the PARTNERS Program
increased their child’s interest in and excitement for reading.
“He looks forward to reading now. He wants us to put my
daughter to bed early so we can read.” “Before I was reading
and thinking like, ‘Why am I reading? You’re not even listen-
ing? ’ But, now he is.” This positive impact also extended be-
yond the child in the program as one parent told, “My younger
child is more into reading now. He wants to be read to three
times a day even though he is not in the program.”
The current study was designed to measure the effectiveness
of the PARTNERS Dialogic Reading Program in increasing
preschool children’s expressive language. A significant in-
crease in expressive vocabulary was exhibited by the children
in the PARTNERS group through their increased accuracy
identifying words at the end of program using the Individual
Growth Developmental Indicators (IGDI) picture naming as-
sessment. Students from families who received dialogic reading
training had significantly better accuracy, correctly naming
61% more words attempted than children of families who were
in the traditional preschool group. Increases in expressive vo-
cabulary development in young children are very important
because research on language development in young children
has consistently shown the importance expressive and receptive
vocabulary play in young children’s ability to learn to rea d and
succeed in school (Wasik, 2010).
Participants also responded positively to the program. A ma-
jority of the parents and caregivers surveyed said that the pro-
gram was successful at increasing conversation between them
and their children and that the program encouraged questioning
during conversation. Other benefits discussed include increas-
ing time spent together, increasing children’s interest in reading,
providing ideas, making reading fun, and increasing language.
Parents in the group interview were able to provide more de-
tailed responses explaining that the program encouraged them
to spend more quality time sharing a book with their child,
increased their child’s vocabulary, and interest in reading.
The relatively small number of participants involved in this
study is a limitation. Also, data regarding if or how often par-
ticipants viewed the training video was not collected. Because
the Parent Notes were included with each book, the program
may have been able to be successfully implemented wit h child-
ren without watching the video. In the future, a larger study
including information regarding participants’ use of the training
video would help strengthen the claim that the video was in-
tegral to the program’s success.
The PARTNERS Dialogic Reading Program provides young
children with opportunities to share the reading experience with
their parent or caregiver. This form of active engagement is
important because it increases children’s vocabulary develop-
ment (Bloom, 2002) and provides children with exposure to
new words in meaningful ways in their environment (Hart &
Risley, 1995). When young children participate in activities
such as dialogic reading they are provided with many benefits
including increased opportunities for joint attention, modeling
of new vocabulary, increased questioning, and feedback (De-
Huebner and Payne (2010) found that dialogic reading train-
ing can have long-lasting effects. In their study, they found that
two years after receiving brief dialogic reading training, parents
used 90% more dialogic reading behaviors than parents who
had not received training. This leads to the conclusion that ca-
regivers’ literacy interactions with children can be positively in-
fluenced with limite d traini ng.
The PARTNERS Program increased the expressive language
skills of young children classified as “at risk”. It also proved to
be an effective program at encouraging family involvement and
education. Because the PARTNERS Program focuses on fami-
lies talking about books with their children instead of just read-
ing aloud, the PARTNERS Program provides materials that can
be used with families regardless of literacy level, home lan-
guage, or children’s expressive language.
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