Journal of Educational Psychology
Vol. 93, No . 2, 2 43-250
Copyright 2001 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
0022-O663/01/S5.00 DOI: 10.1037//0022-O618.104.22.168
Beyond the Pages of a Book: Interactive Book Reading and Language
Development in Preschool Classrooms
Barbara A. Wasik and Mary Alice Bond
Johns Hopkins University
The effects of a book reading technique called interactive book reading on the language and literacy
development of 4-year-olds from low-income families were evaluated. Teachers read books to children
and reinforced the vocabulary in the books by presenting concrete objects that represented the words and
by providing children with multiple opportunities to use the book-related words. The teachers also were
trained to ask open-ended questions and to engage children in conversations about the book and activities.
This provided children with opportunities to use language and learn vocabulary in a meaningful context.
Children who were in the interactive book reading intervention group scored significantly better than
children in the comparison group on Peabody Picture Vocabulary T est-III and other measures of
receptive and expressive language. Book reading and related activities can promote the development of
language and literacy skills in young children.
Shared book reading is an important activity that provides a
context for language development in young children (Dickinson &
Snow, 1987; Dickinson & Tabors, 1991; Senechal, LeFevre,
Thomas, & Daley, 1998; Snow, 1983). Although there has been
some controversy concerning the magnitude of the effect of early
book reading on later literacy and academic skills (Scarborough &
Dobrich, 1994), most scholars agree that shared book reading
contributes in important ways to early literacy and language de-
velopment (Bus, van IJzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Lonigan,
Payne, Whitehurst, & Angell, 1994; Snow, Burns, & Griffin,
A central feature of shared book reading is that it provides
opportunities for learning decontextualized language and vocabu-
lary (Dickinson & Snow, 1987; Snow, 1983). Decontextualized
language refers to language that is used to convey new information
to audiences who have limited shared experience with the context
of the information. Through book reading, children learn vocabu-
lary that they may not necessarily encounter in daily conversations
and learn about conventions of print and the syntactic structure of
language. Children's decontextualized language skills have been
shown to be related to conventional components of literacy, such
as decoding, understanding story narratives, and print production
(Dickinson & Snow, 1987).
Book reading also provides the context for rich conversations
between a child and an adult. During book reading, interactions
frequently go beyond the text of the story and invite dialogue
Barbara A. Wasik and Mary Alice Bond, Center for Social Organization
of Schools, Johns Hopkins University.
This research was supported by Grant R-l 17D-40005 from the Office of
Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.
The content or opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the
views of the Department of Education or any other agency of the U. S.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Barbara
A. Wasik, Center for Social Organization of Schools, 3003 North Charles
Street, Suite 200, Baltimore, Maryland 21218 -3888. Electronic mail may
be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
between the adult and the child. Children whose parents engage in
conversations that go beyond the explicit information presented in
the story performed better on vocabulary measures as compared
with children whose parents focused primarily on the explicit
message of the story (DeTemple & Snow, 1992). Similarly, chil-
dren who were engaged in more high-level conversations and
dialogue about the story performed better on vocabulary and
language measures than did children who focused primarily on
low-level utterances such as describing a page or answering ques-
tions that required a "yes" or "no" response (Haden, Reese, &
Unfortunately, children raised in poverty often enter school with
limited exposure to books and underdeveloped literacy and lan-
guage skills (Adams, 1990; Snow et al., 1998). In a longitudinal
study, Hart and Risley (1995) found that, by age 3, children from
low-income families had significantly lower vocabularies com-
pared with children from middle- and high-income homes. These
findings are consistent with the Carnegie Foundation report,
"Ready to Learn: A Mandate for the
(Boyer, 1991), which
reported that 35% of the children entering school lacked necessary
skills in the areas of vocabulary and sentence structure. Of these,
a disproportionate number were from low-income homes. In gen-
eral, children from high-poverty schools arrive at school signifi-
cantly behind their more advantaged peers, with this gap persisting
as children go from elementary to high school (Puma et al., 1997).
Specific to book reading, the amount of book reading and literacy
activities in low-income preschool classrooms varies greatly from
quality literacy experiences to little exposure to books (Dickinson,
The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of
a book reading approach on the language skills of at-risk preschool
children. The project involves both shared book reading and ex-
tension activities supporting the use of
vocabulary presented in
books. The design for this study was informed by previous re-
search on shared book reading and young children.
There has been extensive research that supports the importance
of the relationship between children's home book reading and
244 WASIK AND BOND
preschool language abilities (Beals, DeTemple. & Dickinson,
Cruin-Thoreson & Dale, 1992; DeBaryshe, 1993; Mason &
Dunning, 1986; Robbins & Ehri, 1994; Wells, 1986; Whitehurst &
Lonigan. 1998). In a series of studies, Senechal and her colleagues
(Senechal & Cornell, 1993; Senechal. LeFevre, Hudson, & Law-
son, 1996; Senechal, Thomas, & Monker, 1995) demonstrated the
development of vocabulary through book reading experiences. For
example. Senechal et al. (1995) showed that children who were
actively engaged in reading a book with an adult learned more
vocabulary than did children who listened passively to the book
reading. In a related study, Senechal et al. (1996) found that
children's knowledge of storybooks contributed unique variance to
their expressive and receptive vocabularies.
In a series of influential studies, Whitehurst and his colleagues
(Arnold, Lonigan. Whitehurst, & Epstein, 1994; Payne et al., 1994;
Valdez-Menchaca & Whitehurst, 1992; Whitehurst, Arnold, et al.,
Whitehurst. Epstein, et al., 1994; Whitehurst et al., 1988)
demonstrated that a program of shared reading, called "dialogic
reading." can produce substantial changes in low-income pre-
school children's language skills. Dialogic reading includes a
series of procedures in which the adult asks open-ended questions,
creates opportunities for the children to participate in storytelling,
and actively listens and encourages a discussion about the story.
For example, the adult reader asks the child to elaborate on a page
that they just read together (e.g., "Tell me more about what we
read.") or asks "what," "where," or "why" questions that encour-
age the child to respond in his or her own words. One-to-one
interventions with dialogic reading have resulted in significant
gains in language skills for children in high-, middle-, and low-
income families (Valdez-Menchaca & Whitehurst, 1992; White-
hurst et al., 1988).
Most of the studies on shared book reading have been done with
an adult, typically a parent, reading one-to-one with a young child.
Less is known about the effects of shared book reading activities
in classrooms (Karweit & Wasik, 1996). In an observational study
of 25 preschool classrooms, Dickinson and Smith (1994) found
that teachers' questioning styles have an effect on children's
vocabulary development. Whitehurst, Epstein, et al. (1994) exam-
ined the effects of dialogic reading on 4-year-olds in Head Start
who were read to in small groups of four. There were significant
effects for writing and concepts of print and findings that ap-
proached significance on language measures. Unlike the robust
results from the one-to-one intervention with dialogic reading,
Whitehurst. Arnold, et al. (1994) found that the classroom-based
interventions had less of an effect. In addition, the home interven-
tion component of dialogic reading was found to be critical to the
program's success (Lonigan & Whitehurst, 1998; Whitehurst, Ar-
nold, et al.. 1994; Whitehurst, Epstein, et al., 1994).
For many low-income children, out-of-home settings are the
primary place where they experience shared reading. Having an
effective language and literacy intervention that could be used in a
whole-group classroom setting would have a significant impact on
at-risk children's literacy development.
The purpose of the present study was to determine whether
shared reading in the classroom can be infused with many of the
positive attributes of one-to-one reading in the home. Our ap-
proach was based on the following premises. First, we wanted to
optimi/.e children's opportunities for learning vocabulary from
book reading. This goal was accomplished by having children
encounter the focal vocabulary multiple times and in multiple
contexts beyond the pages of the book. As Robbins and Ehri
(1994) and Huttenlocher, Levine, and Vevea (1998) found, chil-
dren need repeated exposures to words to acquire them and use
Second, it was important to make target vocabulary salient so
that children in groups of 12 to 15 could benefit from the instruc-
tion. This goal was accomplished by providing children with
concrete representations of the words and having the children
encounter similar words in different books. By having the children
see and interact with the objects, we hoped to increase the prob-
ability that they would learn and remember the words.
Third, on the basis of Whitehurst's work, we provided teachers
with book reading strategies that emphasized open-ended ques-
tioning and invited dialogue with children. When teachers engage
children in discussions about books and other content, children's
vocabulary can increase (Dickinson, Cote, & Smith, 1993). In
combining effective book reading methods in a group approach,
we hoped to foster vocabulary development in low-income 4-year-
olds in a classroom setting.
One hundred twenty-seven 4-year-olds from low-income families par-
ticipated in this research. The mean age was 4 years, 3 months, with the
children's ages ranging from 3 years, 11 months to 4 years, 7 months. The
children attended a Title I early learning center in Baltimore, Maryland.
The center is a public school that serves 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children,
of whom are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Ninety-four percent of
the children are African Americans who are eligible for placement based
on a school readiness screening that was developed by the school district.
The screening measures include receptive and expressive language mea-
categorization tasks, and simple counting.
The 4-year-olds' teachers in the school were informed of the project and
told that if they agreed to participate, half of
teachers would be assigned
to a control group, and the remaining half would participate in the inter-
vention. Four of the five teachers agreed to participate in the project
regardless of their group placement. Both the morning and afternoon
classes of all four teachers participated in this project.
Two teachers were randomly assigned to the intervention condition, and
two were assigned to the control condition. Initially, there were 64 children
in the intervention group and 63 in the control group. Six children trans-
ferred from the school, leaving 61 in the intervention and 60 in the control
The intervention was conducted for 15 weeks, between mid-October and
May. Because of both the school's and the teachers' schedules, the inter-
vention did not occur over consecutive weeks. During the first 4 weeks of
the intervention, Mary Alice Bond, an experienced preschool teacher,
modeled the shared book reading for the intervention teachers and also
assisted with the extension activities. During the remaining 11 weeks, the
intervention teachers did the book reading and center extension activities
The intervention consisted of training teachers in interactive book read-
ing techniques and book reading extension activities as well as providing
the necessary books and materials for the activities. The first part of the
intervention began with training the teachers in interactive book reading
strategies. This training consisted of instruction in (a) defining vocabulary
words and providing opportunities for the children to use vocabulary from
BEYOND THE PAGES OF A BOOK 245
the books, (b) asking open-ended questions and allowing children to talk
beyond a "yes" or "no" response, and (c) providing children with oppor-
tunities to talk and to be heard.
Specifically, the intervention teachers were instructed to introduce the
target vocabulary before the book reading. The teachers were trained to
show the children an object that represented a vocabulary word and ask,
"What is this?" or "What do you call this?" The teacher would then say,
"What can I do with this ?" or "Tell me what you know about this ."
During the book reading, teachers were trained to ask questions that
promoted discussions, such as "Tell me more about what is happening on
this page." "What do you think will happen next?" and "Why do you think
that the character did that?" The teachers were provided with examples of
these open-ended questions. As the teachers implemented the intervention,
they began to develop their own questions that encouraged children to talk
about the book. After reading the story, teachers were instructed to ask the
children reflection questions such as "What part of the book did you like
the best?" and 'Tell me why you think the boy thought that the carrot
would grow." (See the Appendix for excerpts from before, during, and after
interactive book reading in both the intervention and control classes.)
Because this intervention was conducted with whole groups, teachers
were also given guidance in techniques that would help children to listen
while a child was speaking. Mary Alice Bond then modeled these strategies
in the intervention classrooms. After the modeling, the teachers discussed
the strategies they observed and the alternative strategies that could have
been used. In addition to training, the teachers were provided with books
and materials to implement the interactive book reading.
Each intervention teacher was given a box of materials for the topic that
was to be presented. The materials in each box were organized around
specific themes or topics that are commonly used in preschool classrooms,
such as "welcome to school," "clothing," and "the seasons." Each box
contained two age-appropriate trade books related to a topic or theme. The
two books contained similar vocabulary words on the selected topic. Each
box also contained concrete objects that represented the target vocabulary
in the trade books. The intervention teachers and the researchers collabo-
rated in selecting the target vocabulary words. The target words repre-
sented common words that were thought to be unfamiliar to the children in
the study yet necessary for story comprehension. Materials also included a
big book of pictures of the target vocabulary words and the same book in
a smaller form. In addition, the teacher was given written instructions for
center activities that would reinforce the use of the target vocabulary. For
example, the garden prop box contained two trade books: The Carrot Seed
by Ruth Krauss and Jack's Garden by Henry Cole. The box also contained
the following objects: seeds, a shovel, a rake, a small version of a garden
a watering can, insects, flowers, a stalk of com, and a carrot.
In addition to the books and props, instructions and materials were
provided for a related activity that was scheduled for after the book
reading. The activities included arts and crafts such as making a paper-plate
garden and painting a garden picture, science activities such as planting
carrot or bean seeds, and cooking activities such as making a vegetable
platter and eating it during snack. Their selection was based primarily on
the amount of time available in the schedule to conduct the activity and the
teachers' perceptions of the children's interest. All of the materials were
provided to the teachers for the activities; thus, their choices were not
limited by access to supplies. Our goal was to make the intervention as
adaptable as possible to many preschool classrooms. Because the whole-
group activity came after book reading in both the intervention and control
class schedules, the control classes did engage in arts and crafts and science
activities during the same time. However, on the basis of our observations
of the control classes, the group activities were not related to the book
reading. The intervention teachers were instructed to use the activity time
as an opportunity to reinforce the book vocabulary in another context. No
other specific training regarding these activities was given to the interven-
tion teachers. On two occasions, the control teachers were asked to imple-
ment the same activity as the intervention teachers so that a comparison
could be made. However, as the control teachers were doing group activ-
ities at that time, it was not asking them to do something unfamiliar.
Initially, the intervention teachers were asked to read each trade book
twice, but schedule demands did not allow for
Instead, each week, the
teachers read one of the two trade books twice and the second trade book
The teachers implemented the following schedule in presenting the
books and materials in their classrooms. On Day 1, the teacher presented
the props and asked the children to identify the objects. In doing this, the
teachers were given the opportunity to present and discuss vocabulary
words before the children read the story. The teacher would hold up a story
prop and ask the group of children, "What is this?" or "What do you call
If the children were unable to accurately label the prop, the teachers
would provide the correct label. If the children were able to correctly
identify the prop, the teacher would acknowledge the correct label and
continue to the next prop. The teacher would then introduce one of the two
trade books. The trade book was read using interactive reading strategies
that encouraged the children to talk about the vocabulary in the context of
the book. On Day 2, the teacher began with the children labeling the props.
The teacher read the same trade book again. Also on Day 2, the children
worked in small groups on center activities that provided opportunities to
reinforce the vocabulary words from the story. On Day 3, the teacher read
the second trade book, and the children labeled the props. On Day 4, the
children did a center activity that was related to the book. The big book
containing pictures of the target vocabulary words was read to the children
as they followed along with a smaller version of the book. In addition to the
props being used during the interactive book reading time, the props were
placed in the classroom to give children opportunities to play and interact
with them. The control classrooms did not have these specific props
available to them.
The teachers in the control classrooms were given copies of the same
trade books used in the intervention classrooms and read the books the
same number of times that they were read in the intervention group.
However, the control teachers were not trained in interactive book reading
strategies. Both the intervention teachers and the control teachers in this
preschool followed similar daily schedules and implemented similar
themes. A similar amount of time was allocated for book reading in both
the intervention and control classes.
All children were pretested individually on the Peabody Picture Vocab-
ulary Test—III (PPVT-III; Dunn & Dunn, 1998). Similar to most inter-
ventions conducted to date, the PPVT-III was used as a baseline and
outcome measure for receptive vocabulary skills.
At the end of the 15-week intervention, all children were administered
three measures of vocabulary development. First, the PPVT-III was ad-
ministered. Second, a receptive language measure, modeled after the
PPVT-III, was constructed with a subset of
vocabulary words that were
presented during the 15 weeks of interactive book reading. Out of the 100
target words in all of the stories, 44 were randomly selected to use in this
receptive language assessment. Like the PPVT-III, this assessment re-
quired the children to discriminate among four pictures and identify the one
that corresponded to the target vocabulary words. Third, a measure of
expressive vocabulary was administered. The expressive language measure
consisted of pictures that served as referents for the words used during the
interactive book reading. The children were shown a picture and asked to
name the object in the picture. Words used in the receptive assessment
were not used in the expressive assessment. A pretest measure of the
expressive and receptive measures was not administered because the target
vocabulary was not identified prior to the intervention. All children were
individually assessed on all three measures. The PPVT-III provided a
general measure of vocabulary development. The expressive measures
provided a measure of the specific words that the children learned from the
stories and were able to identify without having to use the label for the
246 WASIK AND BOND
word. The expressive measures required that the children have a conceptual
understanding of the word and the correct label for the word.
In addition to measures of vocabulary development, classrooms were
observed to determine whether the teacher reinforced target vocabulary
words outside the context of the interactive book reading. Observations of
teachers' use of the vocabulary were conducted at two times in each of the
during the 9th and
lth weeks of the interven-
tion. All teachers were observed while they read the same two stories.
Teachers in the intervention classrooms were asked to read the trade books
and implement one of the center activities after the book reading. For the
first week of the intervention, teachers in the control group were asked to
read the trade book and transition to a center activity of their choice after
the reading. After the first observation in the control classroom, we found
that teachers did not relate small-group activities to the book reading. To
assess whether control teachers would reinforce the book vocabulary
during small-group activities, teachers in the control group were asked to
implement the same small-group extension activities that were imple-
mented by teachers in the intervention group (for Lessons 9 and 11 only).
This allowed us to observe the same activities in both the intervention and
control groups. However, the control teachers were not provided with any
additional instructions for the extension activities.
A frequency count was tallied of the number of times the teacher used
a target vocabulary word from the story. The purpose of these observations
was to determine whether (a) the teachers, in addition to book-related
activities, actually used the book-related vocabulary when talking to the
children during the activities and (b) the teachers in the intervention and
control classrooms used the terms in different ways in extension activities.
The first set of analyses examined whether children in the
experimental classrooms showed stronger growth in vocabulary
than did children in the control classrooms. In the second set of
analyses, descriptive information on teacher behaviors is provided
to determine the extent to which training seemed to modify the
instructional approach of teachers in experimental classrooms.
The design of this study was 2 (condition: treatment, con-
trol) X 4 (teacher) X 2 (time of day:
teachers nested within condition (2 experimental, 2 control) and
time of day nested within teachers (each taught an
class). For PPVT-III scores, the design included a repeated
measure factor as well (pretest, posttest). The first statistical de-
cision was to determine the need to include all of these factors in
the analyses. Preliminary tests showed no significant differences
between the means for the two experimental teachers and between
the means for the two control teachers (All Fs < 1.0) and no
significant differences between the
classes taught by
each teacher (All Fs < 1.0). Therefore, teacher and time of day
were not considered to be between-group factors. The means for
all analyses are shown in Table 1.
The second analytical decision considered the appropriate unit
of analysis. The decision to use students as the unit of analysis
when intact classrooms receive treatments is both common and
widely criticized (e.g., Blair & Higgins, 1986; Blair, Higgins,
Topping, & Mortimer, 1983; Cronbach, 1976; Hopkins, 1982), and
the matter is far from resolved. It is the case that the assumption
of independence of scores required for analysis of variance
(ANOVA) is violated when students, as a group, receive a treat-
ment and are the unit of analysis. Further, Monte Carlo studies
Means for All Measures by Condition, Trial, and Teacher
Note. Receptive and expressive measures were given at the posttest only.
PPVT-III = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—III.
conducted on t tests (without an obvious treatment comparison)
suggest that Type I error is greatly inflated when students, instead
of classroom means, are used as the unit of analysis (Blair et al.,
However, because of the sharp reduction in the degrees of
freedom for error, Type II error is greatly increased through the use
of classroom means. Moreover, there are statistically sound alter-
natives to using classroom means for intact classrooms (using
students as the unit) that produce F values that are similar to those
produced in standard ANOVAs when students are the unit of
analysis (e.g., treating students, teachers, and methods as random
effects; see Hopkins, 1982). Given that each unit of analysis has its
strengths and weaknesses, the data are reported in two ways: (a)
with classrooms as the unit of analysis and (b) with students as the
unit of analysis. The results were identical for both kinds of
analyses, so it is unlikely that our results are due to either Type I
or Type II error.
A third analytical decision related to the fact that each teacher
class. When classroom means are the unit
of analysis, each teacher would contribute two means if time of
day were ignored, as preliminary analyses suggested that it should
To avoid this dependency problem, we conducted an ANOVA
comparing treatment and control classrooms for just the A.M.
classes and an ANOVA comparing treatment and control class-
rooms for just the
The expected result was a Treatment X Trial interaction if the
intervention was effective (i.e., no difference in PPVT-III scores at
the pretest but a significant difference at the posttest). The analyses
with classroom as the unit of analysis revealed the expected
interaction for both the
classes, F(l, 2) = 62.73,p < .016, and
classes, F( l, 2) = 346.08, p < .001. The means were 73.66
(treatment) and 72.01 (control) for PPVT scores at the pretest
and 81.30 (treatment) and 72.10 (control) for PPVT scores at the
posttest. The comparable analyses with students as the unit of
analysis produced the same Treatment X Trial interaction, F( l,
120) = 13.69, p < .001.
A similar approach was used to examine treatment effects on the
receptive and expressive vocabulary posttest measures constructed
for this study. With classroom as the unit of
for the receptive measures revealed significant main effects of
condition for both the
classes, F (l, 2) = 133.940, p < .007,
classes, F( l, 2) = 293.68, p < .003. The means for the
receptive measure were 37.85 (treatment) and 28.09 (control) for
classes and 38.05 (treatment) and 26.06 (control) for the
classes. With students
analysis, main effect
F(l , 120) =
p < .001
For the expressive measure, note that
strict scoring criterion
was applied. For children to receive a point for their response, they
the exact word
the object that was used
book reading. For example, they needed to use the word firefighter
"person who puts
with the classroom
analysis revealed the expected
F(l, 2) =
classes, F( l, 2)
means were 7.49 (treatment) and
(control) for the
and 7.39 (treatment) and 2.78 (control)
was F(l, 120) =
As noted earlier,
any of the 10
target vocabulary words during
20-min extension activities
10 (each word) ANOVA was conducted for
the two extension activities. There were significant main
group and word
Group X Word interactions: F(9, 54)
.001, and F(9,
respectively, for the interactions. Interven-
tion teachers used the target words significantly more often than
did, but the
differences were especially
certain words (see Table 2). During both extension
intervention group used,
out of the 10 target words, and teachers in the control groups used,
10 words. The intervention did have an effect
Word Usage Group
on teacher behaviors, specifically
of elaborated use
the target words.
The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate the effective-
classroom-based interactive book reading project
was expected that
dren with multiple opportunities to interact with vocabulary words
through book reading, story props, and extension activities, chil-
dren would learn the vocabulary associated with these activities. In
addition, because teachers were trained
use book reading strat-
egies that focused
increasing the use
language and empha-
sizing vocabulary, it was hypothesized that this intervention would
more broad effect
children's vocabulary development.
Children whose teachers provided multiple opportunities
teract with vocabulary words learned more book-related vocabu-
lary compared with children who were exposed to just the books.
interactive book reading,
meaningful context. Also, children were
given the opportunities
ask questions about
other children's conversations about
The story props helped the vocabulary words come alive
children and provided additional opportunities to hear the label for
props were very interesting
was likely that motivation
names for the props was enhanced. The extension activities further
which children could
musical instruments that they learned about in a book, they learned
the names for the instruments that they made. As Robbins and Ehri
(1994) and Huttenlocher
al. (1998) have shown, children learn
repeatedly exposed. The book reading,
story props, and extension activities provided multiple contexts
hear and use the vocabulary words from the story. Children
intervention and control classroom were read the identical stories,
yet in the control group, teachers did not systematically extend the
the story vocabulary beyond the pages of the book. Instead,
what we observed was the lack
the interactive book vocabulary
meaningful context. This
significantly lower performance
group on the receptive and expressive book vocabulary measures.
learning vocabulary specific
the book reading,
the intervention group also scored significantly better
on the PPVT-III compared with children in the control group. One
that intervention teachers
generalized the training from the book reading
their teaching. Teachers were trained to ask open-ended questions,
to discuss new words, and to encourage the children to participate
in the story discussion. During the extension activities, the teachers
made connections between
activity. There were
story and the extension activities as well as how these educational
turn, the children were influ-
the teachers' behaviors. We observed, and the teachers
reported, that the children
the intervention group became very
asking the teachers
word they didn't
asking questions during
story, during the extension
during other activities that were conducted
248 WASIK AND BOND
preschool classroom. We also observed that, compared with teach-
ers in the control condition, teachers in the intervention group
more frequently used the proper label for words instead of refer-
ring to an object by using a pronoun such as it or by pointing to the
object. These experiences may have resulted in children being
more interested in words and curious about their meaning. Also,
children talking more and engaging in more conversations can
result in increasing the frequency with which children encounter
and use more words.
There are important educational implications of this study. This
study suggests that in a Title I preschool, it is possible to imple-
ment a classroom intervention that can have positive effects on
vocabulary development in young children. This vocabulary de-
velopment was demonstrated both on measures specific to the
intervention and on a standardized test. As mentioned previously,
for some children in high-poverty schools, their classroom expe-
riences are an essential part in teaching them language and vocab-
ulary. Although classroom experiences cannot possibly match the
impact of one-to-one reading, this study demonstrates one possible
way to teach vocabulary to young children in a meaningful context
in a whole group. The interactive book reading project described in
this study offers one method of helping 4-year-olds learn vocab-
ulary. As Hart and Risley (1995) found, teaching young children
language and vocabulary in the early years helps them develop
skills that they can continue to build on. Providing an effective
intervention for preschoolers hopefully can foster important vo-
cabulary skills and motivate children to expand their language and
learn new words.
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Intervention and Control Teachers Before, During, and After Reading of The Carrot Seed
The following vignettes illustrate a lesson of an intervention and control
teacher reading The Carrot Seed to his or her class. They include a
description of before, during, and after reading the story.
The intervention teacher begins the lesson by showing the children the
garden props, which include objects from the book, and asking them to
name the props. After a child names the object, the teacher asks what the
child can do with the object. The children then select a few props that they
would use to help plant seeds, and the teacher asks them to share their
experiences of planting seeds. The teacher then introduces the book The
Teacher: Today we are going to read a book about planting. The name
of the book is The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. In this book, we will
find many of the words that we have just seen the objects for. Let's
look at the cover of the book to see what you think this book is about.
What does it look like the boy is doing? [The teacher chooses four
children to make predictions about the book.]
The teacher reads the book and asks open-ended questions that involve
the children in the story.
Teacher: How did the little boy plant the seed?
Child 1: He dug a hole.
Teacher (to same child): Tell me more.
Child 1: He dug a hole in the ground and he put the seed in.
Teacher: How did he dig the hole?
Child 2: With a shovel like this. [The child demonstrates the action of
Teacher: Kind of like the shovel that I showed you. [She points to the
shovel in the prop box.]
Teacher (while continuing to read): Why do you think that the b oy's
family did not think that the seed would grow?
Child 3: Because the seed was no good.
Teacher: Tell me why you would think that the seed is no good.
Child 3: Because it was brown and a carrot is orange.
Teacher: Well, that is a good point but many seeds are brown in color.
I will show you them later when we do some planting. Why else did
the family think that the boy's seed would not grow?
Child 4: Because the boy didn' t plant it right.
Teacher: Tell me more about that.
Child 4: He didn' t plant it in a good spot. He should have planted it
in another part of the yard.
Child 5: He didn 't dig the hole deep enough, like it needs to be real
deep like this. [The child stretches out his arms to indicate the
Teacher: Well let's see what happens. (The teacher continues to read
and asks two additional questions: "How did the boy feel as he was
watching his carrot grow?" and 'Tel l me about this page" [the page
when the carrot was starting to sprout]).
The teacher reviews the story by asking the children questions.
Teacher: Let's think about the story that we just read. How did the
little boy take care of the seed?
Child 6: He watered it.
Teacher: Yes, he watered it. What else?
Child 1: He watched it and he saw it grow.
Teacher: Yes, watched it carefully. What else?
Child 7: He watched it like we have been watching our plants grow.
See how our plants are growing. They are [growing] because we
watered them and made them grow.
The teacher asks the children two additional questions and concludes by
telling the children that during center time, they will have the opportunity
to plant their own carrot seed. The intervention teacher has been trained to
make connections between the vocabulary and concepts in the story and the
The teacher displays the book and introduces the cover.
Teacher: Today we are going to read the book The Carrot
author is Ruth Krauss. Let's look at the cover of the book. Here is a
little boy. He is planting something. What do you think he is planting?
250 WASIK AND BOND
The teacher reads the story and asks the following questions:
Teacher: What kind of seed did the boy plant?
Child 1: A carrot seed.
Teacher: Yes, very good. [Teacher reads more and asks another
question.] Who said the seed would not come up?
Child 2: The mom.
Teacher: Yes, who else?
Child 3: The dad.
Teacher: Good listening to the story.
Teacher: That was a great story. Did you like it?
Child 4: Yes.
Child 5: Yes, I liked it.
Teacher: Let's go to our centers and see what we will be doing there
Received May 3, 2000
Revision received October 12, 2000
Accepted October 30, 2000
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