Literacy

Halloween and Health Literacy Month

Dr. Brenda K. Gorman, Contributing Author

October is one of my kids’ favorite months, for Halloween, you know. Well, October is one of my favorite “professional” months, for Health Literacy Month. Okay, I suppose that as a person who is passionate about promoting literacy, every month is literacy month in my book. But in any case, it is so important that professionals spread information about the critical relationship between language and literacy.

We know that language learning starts at birth. Therefore, the idea that children learn to read in school needs to change to reflect the reality that both language and literacy develop from birth.

Recently, I supervised a graduate student who taught a parent to use dialogic book reading strategies with a young child who reportedly disliked sitting down to read with his parents. Dialogic reading is a concept based on the work of Dr. Grover Whitehurst and the Stony Brook Reading and Language Project. According to Dr. Whitehurst, “In dialogic reading, the adult helps the child become the teller of the story. The adult becomes the listener, the questioner, the audience for the child.” We were, of course, taking data on the child’s vocabulary and language growth, but the data simply did not capture the full impact of treatment. Watching the child sit on his parent’s lap while sharing a book, both smiling and so cozy together, it was marvelous. Dialogic reading was just one component of the broader speech and language therapy plan, but with the transformation in their interaction, it may have been the most powerful component. And although the young child had not yet formally learned to read, he was already developing a love of reading.

I talk a lot about a remarkable program called Reach Out and Read in which medical providers support healthy reading practices in the home with children as young as six months old. I have had the privilege of presenting at the Reach Out and Read-Wisconsin annual conference, and I encourage everyone to spread the word about this phenomenal program.  Check out and share this video that the founders developed, available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRq2qDT2HHg.

Hmmm, maybe I should give out books with a piece of candy inside this year for Halloween. Now that would be a real treat!


Whitehurst, G. J. (1992). Dialogic reading: An effective way to read to preschoolers. Retrieved: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/400?theme=print