Research from around the world shows that a caregiver can boost the developmental benefits of books by sharing them with a child in a particular way – using dialogic book-sharing.

What is dialogic book-sharing?

Dialogic book-sharing is an interactive exercise involving an adult and young child sharing a wordless picture book. This special interaction is about more than just reading to a child while they passively listen. This is an interactive exchange, led by the child and supported by the adult who is attentive to the child’s interests and communication.

The fundamental difference between book-sharing and book-reading is the quality of the interaction between the adult and the child. When reading a book, the interaction typically focuses on the written words and the caregiver does most of the talking directed at the child. In book-sharing, on the other hand, the focus is on the child’s interest and creating opportunities for the child to actively participate in a conversation about the book, through asking questions that help them solve problems and enhance their understanding.

Picture books that have no written text – wordless books – create an environment where children and caregivers are more likely to engage in discussions about thoughts and feelings compared to books that contain text.

What are the developmental benefits of book-sharing?

Research – in South Africa and across the world – shows that book-sharing:

  • Improves children’s language and cognitive development
  • Helps children’s social understanding
  • Provides carers with a means of engaging sensitively and supportively with children, which enhances the quality of carer-child engagement in a way that is not only cognitively supportive, but also emotionally supportive, for children
  • Is rewarding and enjoyable for adults, as they become more sensitive to their child’s knowledge, preferences, and interests
  • Results in considerable child development benefits across a wide range of outcomes – such as attention, social understanding, and behaviour

What age group is it appropriate for?

Book sharing can start from even before a child turns one year old and studies have shown large impacts on these young children’s development.

Other evaluations on book-sharing including older children, up to the age of five years, have also shown a significant positive impact on their development. Book-sharing should be done with children for 5-10 minutes every day. Because children love routine, building book-sharing into their daily routine helps.

This blog was compiled with input from Kaathima Ebrahim the Mikhulu Child Development Trust, which trains facilitators at organisations to implement an ECD book-sharing programme for caregivers and ECD practitioners.

Click here to read more about the Mikhulu Child Development Trust (link to piece: Mikhulu Child Development Trust: providing book-sharing training to organisations) or here to view their ECD book-sharing training film.

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