Mothers' Book Reading & Reminiscing

An Examination of Preschoolers' Phonological Awareness

Dr. Diana Leyva

  • Post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Her research involves mothers' book reading and reminiscing and how it impacts preschoolers (3-5).
  • Became interested in preschool phonology when she noticed the push for children's literacy in the US and other countries.

How Books and Reminiscing Help Children

Many studies have been done about the effect that books have on children. Some of the findings are:

  • They help children's language and literacy
  • Reading to children helps their vocabulary, print skills, narrative skills, and comprehension

Not all parents read to their children, though. There are many reasons why parents don't. Some don't have the time or the resources, some parents can't get their children engaged and excited about reading, and some don't have the language or literacy skill.s

What can we do to help these children gain the literacy skills? Reminisce. When parents talk to their children about past events ("What did you do in school today? What did you do this past weekend that was fun? What did you do while you were at Grandma's?") These kinds of conversations helps build children's language and literacy skills just like reading to them does.

What the Research Says

  • The quality of reminiscing plays a bigger role than the quality of book reading in predicting preschooler's phonological awareness.
  • The types of questions asked while reading a book and the questions asked while engaged in a conversation were different, and the questions asked while engaged in conversation were higher quality questions.
  • Kids who don't get read to a lot can still get the same benefits by having reminiscent conversations with their parents.

Teaching Implications

Teachers (and parents) should talk to children in an elaborative way. This means that you increase the number of open-ended questions. This will require students to think about their answer before they give it.

Principals should support and encourage teachers to include conversation and other activities besides book reading that will help encourage language/literacy skills. Show-and-tell is an excellent reminiscent activity to do. Students get excited about sharing something special, and so they don't even see the conversation part of it as an assignment. They just see it as sharing their item.