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Parent–child conversations about literacy: a longitudinal, observational study*


Conversations about literacy-related matters with parents can help prepare children for formal literacy instruction. We studied these conversations using data gathered from fifty-six US families as they engaged in daily activities at home. Analyzing conversations when children were aged 1;10, 2;6, 3;6, and 4;2, we found that explicit talk about the elements and processes of reading and writing occurred even when children were less than two years old and became more common as children grew older. The majority of literacy-related conversations included talk about alphabet letters. Literacy-related conversations occurred in a variety of contexts, not only book-reading. There were few differences as a function of family socioeconomic status in the proportion of utterances during the sessions that occurred in literacy-related conversations. At older ages, however, children in families of lower socioeconomic status bore more of the conversational burden than children in families of higher status.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Rebecca Treiman, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1125, St. Louis MO 63130. e-mail:
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This research was supported by a program project grant from NICHD (HD040605) and by grants from NIH (HD051610) and NSF (BCS-1421279). Thanks to the PIs of the program project, Susan Goldin-Meadow, Janellen Huttenlocher, and Susan Levine, to the data collectors and transcribers on the program project, and to Kelly Boland, Juliet Kinder, and John Schmidt.

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Journal of Child Language
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