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Dialogic Reading in a Chinese Context

Most of the research supporting the benefits of parent-child reading has been conducted in Indo-European language families; little research has been done in Hong Kong. Professor McBride and her colleagues from the Department of Psychology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, conducted a study to investigate the effect of dialogic reading (parent-child communication while reading) and morphology training (teaching skills related to the patterns of word formation). Increased morphological awareness helps children understand the smallest meaningful unit within a word for local Chinese children. Compared to narrative technique, dialogic reading was proven to enhance children’s interest in reading significantly.

The results of the study showed that preschoolers who enjoyed dialogic reading with their parents demonstrated greater gains in vocabulary. Moreover, those who received extra morphology training yielded greater improvement in character recognition and morphological awareness. Chinese is a morphosyllabic language, in which each character represents both a syllable and a lexical morpheme. Therefore, morphological awareness is particularly important in Chinese reading, in contrast to English language which focuses on phonemic awareness.

Professor McBride also included a piece of advice with regard to the uniqueness of Chinese: For Cantonese-speaking children, where the spoken and written language are not the same, parents should emphasize the pronunciation and the meaning of written forms along with dialogic reading to facilitate Chinese

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literacy growth. This means that parents can label the word in written Chinese and explain it’s more colloquial counterpart in spoken Chinese (e.g. 小孩[/siu2 hoi4/; a child] equals to細路[/sai3 lou6/; a child]) .

For more reading on ‘Dialogic Reading’:

Chow, B. W.-Y., McBride-Chang, C., & Cheung, H. (2008). Dialogic Reading and Morphology Training in Chinese Children: Effects on Language and Literacy. Developmental Psychology, 44, 233-244.

Whitehurst, G. J., Falco, F. L., Lonigan, C. J., Fischel, J. E., DeBaryshe, B. D., Valdez-Menchaca, M. C., & Caulfield, M. (1988). Accelerating language development through picture book reading. Developmental psychology, 24, 552-559.

Zevenbergen, A. A., & Whitehurst, G. J. (2003). Dialogic reading: A shared picture book reading intervention for preschoolers. In A. van Kleeck, S. A. Stahl, & E. B. Bauer (Eds.), On reading books to children: Parents and teachers (pp. 177–200). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Longitudinal study on Chinese children’s language and literacy acquisition http://www.psy.cuhk.edu.hk/~hkbjlong/indexeng.htm