Book-sharing experiences provide a perfect opportunity for learning and communication between parents and children, allowing for conversations that may be more abstract, complex, and cognitively demanding. Nyhout and O’Neill (2012) examined how complex the conversations were around a book read jointly by mothers and their toddlers. Importantly, they looked at possible differences between reading a narrative book that told a story and a more didactic book that aimed to teach new words and concepts. The authors carefully controlled for other aspects of the books, such as book length, content, and amount of text. They then asked 25 mothers and their children to read a book together. The researchers recorded the conversations that occurred during joint-reading and measured the relative amount of the conversations that were more complex in nature. When reading the narrative, mothers tended to include more complex talk, such as a greater variety of tenses as well as more references to mental state (e.g., emotions, thoughts, beliefs). Mothers also seemed to encourage behaviors that adults engage in while reading, such as anticipating what will happen next and looking for patterns or similarities. The researchers suggest that reading narrative books may contribute to the child’s abstract thinking abilities, whereas didactic books may improve factual and vocabulary knowledge. This study illuminates how different genres should be considered when considering the impact of reading, even for young children reading with their parents.
Nyhout, A., & O’Neill, D. K. (2013). Mothers’ complex talk when sharing books with their toddlers: Book genre matters. First Language, 33(2), 115–131. doi:10.1177/0142723713479438
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Post by Tatiana Nichol.