The Effects of Dialogic Reading
On Children's Literacy Development


                      Abstract          Method               Results
 
 

Abstract
The study involved introducing the dialogic reading method as a three-week intervention with Head Start children to improve their literacy skills. The study modeled ten children, five in the intervention group and five in the control group.  Both groups were pretested using The Family Pet Story Task.  The intervention group met with the experimenter five days a week for three weeks to read using the dialogic method.  Both groups were postested on The Family Pet Story Task.  The children in the dialogic reading group had a higher word count, used more character emotions, included a middle component to the plot, and had a better overall score compared to the children in the control group.  Future research might consider having more than one person score The Family Pet Story Task to insure grater inter-rater reliability.

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Method
Participants
This study included ten children with ages ranging from three to four.  They were randomly assigned to two groups with five children in each group.  The experimental group was made up of two girls and three boys.  The control group consisted of two boys and three girls.  These children attended a local Head Start Program in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Materials
A test titled The Family Pet Story Task was developed to measure childrens’ literacy and was administered pre and post experimental intervention.  This measure involves having the children use toy figures to tell the experimenter a story.  There are four figures in the test, with pretesting including a father, mother, child, and a cat.  Posttest included a father, mother, child, and a dog.  The figures purpose was to aid the child in narrating a story about the figures presented to them. This test assured the effectiveness of the intervention to address whether dialogic reading had influenced on the child’s literacy development.
There were several childrens’ books used with the intervention group.  These books were, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, by Eric Carle, The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree, By Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Isty Bisty Spider, by Iza Trapani, A Pocket for Corduroy, by Don Freeman, Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, Eileen Christelow, Curious George Goes to the Aquarium, by Margret Rey and Alan Shalleck, Go, Dog. Go!, by P.D. Eastman, Goodnite Bo Bear, by Barbara Chimochowski, and Noisy, by Shirley Hughes.

Design and Procedure
Each child’s parents were issued an informed consent for explaining the purpose of this study.  The children were all informed as to what we would be working on for the next four weeks.  They were randomly assigned to either the control or the experimental group.
During the first meeting, I met with all children to do a warm up activity so that they would become comfortable around me.  The warm up activities included talking with them, drawing/toy activities, and outside play. Once a rapport was established, when the children were able to approach and involve me in what they where doing, I pre-tested them by asking them to tell a story using the Family Pet Story Task.  This test consisted of the family along with a cat.  These pretests were audio taped for the purpose of scoring their stories for a base line measure.  They were scored on their ability to tell a story.
The intervention followed for three weeks everyday dialogic reading with the kids in the experimental group.  This intervention consisted of reading different books implementing the dialogic reading method over the course of three weeks.  The books were heavily illustrated with few words on each page.  This allowed more of an opportunity to engage the child in the book by asking questions and how it might relate to the child.
The control group received regular Head Start curriculum, which consisted of playtime where the child was able to choose where they wanted to play.  There were four areas in the classroom, art, housekeeping, drawing, and blocks.  There was no involvement between the children and the experimenter for the control group.
Once the intervention was complete, The Family Pet Story Task was administered to both groups, but this time there was a dog instead of a cat.  They retold a story using these figures.  During the posttest sessions, the children were audio taped again so their stories could be reliably scored.

Scoring
 The Family Pet Story Task was scored based on the following five sections.  Three out of the five were scored with continuous data and the other two were non-continuous.  Word count, narrative skill, and overall score was scored by numbers.  Character and plot were scored by a yes or no.  Refer to Table 1 for description of dependant variables.

    Table 1.
    Description of Dependant Variables:
    Items on the Score Sheet
    Total Word Count: Total number of words within the story.
    Character
    All Four: The child’ ability to use all four characters in the story.
    Emotion: The child’s ability to make the characters show emotions.
    Dialogue: The child’s ability to speak for all of the characters to engage in dialogue.
    Action: The child’s ability to make the characters perform some kind of action.
    Plot
    Beginning: The child’s ability to think up a starting point from where a story could develop.
    Middle: The child’s ability to continue where the characters are involved in an issue.
    End: The child’s ability to bring the story to a conclusion where the issue is resolved.
    Narrative Skill
    Prompts: The number of times the child had to be prompted to continue the story.
    Retrace: The number of times the child retraced their story to correct themselves.
    Repetitions: The number of times within the story the child repeats the same word or words.
    Overall Score
    The story is scored overall on a Likert Scale ranging from one to five.  1-poor, 2-fair, 3-average, 4-good, 5-very good.
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Results
Total Word Count
 A 2(intervention) x 2(test occasion) mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) was computed with word count from the Family Pet Story Task as the dependant measure.  There was a significant interaction between intervention and test occasion, F (1,8)=8.50, p<.05. At the pretest the two groups did not differ in terms of word count, however, at posttest the dialogic reading group used more words compared to the control group.

Character
 Four separate 2(intervention) x 2(response) Chi-squares were computed for each pretest character score from the Family Pet Story Task.  The two groups did not differ on any measure at pretest.  Four 2(intervention) x 2(response) Chi-squares were also computed for each character score from the Family Pet Story Task.  The analyses showed that dialogic reading group was more likely to use emotion at posttest (100%) compared to the control group (20%), Chi-square
(1,N=10)=8.46, p< .01.  Refer to table 2.
Table 2.

Emotion*

TEST OCCASSION
                                                    Percent
                                  20  30  40  50  60  70  80  90  100
Experimental   Pretest XXXXX
                     Posttest XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Control           Pretest XXXXX
                     Posttest X
* Child’s ability to make characters show emotion
  Chi-square (1,N=10)=8.46, p<.01.

Plot
 Three different 2(intervention) x 2(response) Chi-squares were also computed for each pretest plot scores from the Family Pet Story Task.  The two groups did not differ on any measure at pretest.  Three 2(intervention) x 2(response) Chi-squares were computed for plot scores for the posttest.  The analysis showed that the dialogic reading group were more likely to include middle component in their story (100%) compared to the control group (20%), Chi-square (1, N=10), 8.46, p<.01.  Refer to Table 3 for illustration.

Table 3.
Plot
   Middle*
             Test Occasion                   Percent
                                     20  30  40  50  60  70  80  90  100
Experimental       Pretest XXXXX
                         Posttest XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Control               Pretest XXXXX
                         Posttest XX
*  Child’s ability to continue where the characters are involved in an issue
   Chi-square (1,N=10), 8.46, p<.01.

Narrative Skill
Three separate 2(intervention) x 2(test occasion) mixed analysis of variance was computed for the narrative skill scores from the Family Pet Story Task.   There were no significant findings for prompts, F (1,8)=.94, p=.360, retraces, F (1,8)=1.19, p=.308, repetitions, F (1,8)=3.6, p=.01.

Overall Score
 A 2(intervention) x 2(test occasion) mixed analysis of variance was computed for the overall score from the Family Pet Story Task.  There was a significant interaction between intervention and test occasion, F (1,8)=32.67, p<.001.  Both the intervention and control started at the same level.  The control group stayed consistent throughout the study.  The intervention group scored significantly higher at posttest compared to the control.

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your questions or comments to Meredith McDonald
                                             mmcdonal@anselm.edu