Why we need to read to our students
It is not surprising that there is a correlation between language ability and early literacy development in children with language disorders. However, evidence indicates that parents of children with language difficulties are less likely to engage their child in read-alouds and story-telling than are parents of children without language difficulties. (It is unclear whether this drop in parental engagement is a precipitating factor in the child's language disability or a reaction to it.)
This means that it is essential that teachers and SLPs provide students with regular opportunities for developing their literacy skills. One easy and effective way to do this is through read-alouds.
Making read-alouds matter
Two strategies that have been proven to improve literacy skills in children with language disorders are dialogic reading and print referencing.
Dialogic reading is an embedded (i.e., incorporated seamlessly into story reading), evocative (i.e., eliciting response from the reader) reading strategy. It involves the reader to punctuate their reading by asking the student pointed questions about the elements and concepts of the story during the read-aloud. Dialogic reading helps improve children with language disorders' ability to identify key literary concepts.
Print referencing is an explicit, non-evocative read-aloud strategy in which the reader directly references features of the book, such as the title, author, illustrations, and front cover. Print referencing can also reference features of the text, such as rhyme, alliteration, and repetition. These references are not made in context with the story and do not require a response from the student. Explicit, non-evocative print referencing increases the ability of children with language disorders to identify various print features, which has been shown to improve students' overall literacy development.
Incorporating these two literacy strategies into read alouds directly improves the language-challenged learner's understanding of literary content and conventions. Visit the embedded links to learn more about how to implement dialogic reading and print referencing. (Note: The "print referencing" link opens to a PDF.)
-contributed by J. Tabak
Lovelace, S. & S.R. Stewart. (2007). Increasing print awareness in preschoolers with language impairment using non-evocative print referencing. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools, 38 (1), 16-30.