Hindawi Publishing Corporation
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Comparison of Shared Reading versus Emergent Reading:
How the Two Provide Distinct Opportunities for Early Literacy
Stephanie M. Curenton and Symonne Kennedy
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
Correspondence should be addressed to Stephanie M. Curenton; email@example.com
Received February ; Accepted April
Academic Editors: B. W. Baldwin, R. Martens, and M. Recker
Copyright © S. M. Curenton and S. Kennedy. is is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is
is study examined mother-child interactions across two types of reading interactions—shared reading versus emergent reading—
in order to determine (a) if mothers and children provide the same amount of language input across the two interactions, (b) if
the socioemotional quality is consistent across the interactions, and (c) if the language input and socioemotional quality across the
two interactions are dierentially associated with children’s scores on early literacy assessments. Twenty-ve mother-child dyads
participated in both interactions. Children were given a standardized test of early reading and an emergent reading score based on
a rubric designed particularly for the book they were reading. Results indicated that during the shared reading mothers provided
more language input (i.e., they talked more), but children increased their amount of talk during the emergent reading, making
such input eects null. Overall, socioemotional quality was consistent across the two interactions, except mothers provide more
literacy feedback during shared reading. Both language input and socioemotional quality were associated with higher scores on
early literacy assessments, but the contribution of these factors varied depending across the type of reading interaction. Results are
discussed in terms of education implications for literacy practices at home and school.
Before young children can actually read, they possess a
body of knowledge pertaining to reading and writing that
teachers, developmental psychologists, and researchers refer
to as early literacy skills. ese skills include meaning-based
and code-based skills related to vocabulary, morphosyntax,
listening comprehension, print awareness, and phonological
awareness (for a detailed discussion of skills see ). Early
literacy skills are developed through repeated exposure to
language and literacy activities at school and home, and
two of the activities we explore in this study are typical
shared reading and emergent reading.Inthisstudy,typical
shared reading between a parent and child is characterized
by a one-on-one interaction in which an adult reads a
story to the child and encourages the child to be actively
involved by asking questions and allowing him/her to share
their ideas and opinions about the story. In comparison, we
dene emergent reading as a one-on-one interaction between
a parent and child in which a child uses the pictures of
book, along with what they remember about that book,
to retell the story perhaps with guidance from the parent
in the form of questions and encouragement. Both typical
shared reading and emergent reading have been shown to be
signicant predictors of children’s later literacy skills, namely
their reading and narrative comprehension [–].
Work by Kaderavek and Sulzby  has compared emer-
gent readings and oral narratives, but to date, no study has
compared typical shared versus emergent readings in terms
of how parent-child interaction might dier across the two
reading contexts, specically as it relates to the language input
provided by each participant, how the socioemotional quality
of the interaction might vary across the readings, and how the
two might be uniquely related to children’s early literacy skills.
e purpose of this small-scale descriptive study was to com-
pare these two reading interactions and to provide evidence
of the quantitative and qualitative dierences between the two
2. Shared Reading versus Emergent Reading
Both in shared and emergent reading interactions parents
are able to cater to the interests and developmental needs
of the child, and by doing so the parent is attempting to
make the interaction enjoyable as well as educational .
Prior research indicates that mothers who have positive
views of shared reading (e.g., mothers who believe reading
interactions should be educational, enjoyable activities in
which the child is actively engaged) have children with better
literacy skills . erefore, we know that the socioemo-
tional quality of the interaction is an important factor to
consider when studying reading interactions. e question
posed by this study is whether the socioemotional quality
would be the same across the two reading interactions.
One could hypothesize that the quality would be better
during the emergent reading versus the shared reading given
that during the emergent reading the child is the main
“storyteller,” which provides many opportunities for mothers
to provide praise and encourage children’s nascent literacy
Another important aspect to investigate is the language
input across the two interactions. One fundamental goal
around a text. In fact, there is a well-known body of research
conrming that if parents and teachers are properly trained
to use specic dialogic techniques there will be gains in
children’s literacy skills [–]. Although there is literature
on such specic intervention programs, the eld still needs
information about the language input parents and children
provide naturally without intervention training, especially
during those instances like emergent reading, when the child
is taking the lead in telling the story. To our knowledge, only
a few studies have contrasted emergent reading with other
narrative/storytelling interactions. Kaderavek and Sulzby 
in their comparison of emergent reading with oral narrative
production provide some evidence that children do indeed
provide dierent language input across these two narrative
contexts. For example, they found that children’s language
input was better during the emergent reading narratives
versus the oral storytelling narratives: Children’s emergent
reading narratives included a greater number of utterances
and utterances that were more grammatically complex, and
children were more likely to use literate language features,
such as reported speech and character dialogue. eir study
provides detailed information about how children’s language
input is dierent across context, but there is still a gap
in the knowledge regarding how mothers’ language input
might be dierent when comparing emergent reading with
shared reading interactions. e work of Curenton et al.
 is a study in which emergent reading was actually
compared to shared reading, and their results indicated that
although mothers talked more and used more grammatically
complex talk than children during shared reading, there
were no dierences between the mothers’ and children’s talk
during emergent reading. Lastly, Martin-Chang and Gould
 compared mother’s language input across the reading
interactions of shared-reading (when the mother read to the
child) and a child’s reading (when the child actually “read”
to the mother), and they found mothers focused more on
the text when the child was reading to her but more on
in these situations in which children are actually “readers,”
mothers’ input changes from being meaning-based focused
to code-based focused; other researchers have found similar
results during parent-child interactions with rst graders
In sum, these prior studies indicate that there is some-
thing special about emergent reading compared to other
storytelling/reading interactions in that children demonstrate
better skills during emergent reading than they do during
other storytelling interactions  and that children are able
to converse at a level equivalent to that of their mothers
when they are engaged in emergent reading versus other
types of narrative interactions . Such ndings lead one
to hypothesize that children will produce more language
input during the emergent reading versus the shared reading
interactions in the current study.
Finally, there is a need for more research that compares
reading interactions in terms of how they are related to
children’s literacy outcomes. One study has addressed such
a comparison among teachers. In the work of Lonigan
et al.,  they trained research assistants to deliver dialogic
reading and typical shared reading in preschool classrooms
with small groups of children; they concluded that both
reading interactions have overall positive eects on children’s
literacy skills but that shared reading had more favor-
able eects on children’s listening comprehension and their
phonological awareness. Lonigan and colleague’s study pro-
vides important information about the outcomes associated
with the two types of readings in their study, but it does
not provide information about how shared reading might
compare with emergent reading. Given the prior results from
Lonigan et al.’s study, it would be dicult to hypothesize
whether shared versus emergent reading would have stronger
associations with children’s early reading skills since their
research says that both are eective. erefore, we propose
no a priori hypothesis for the association with early literacy
3. Present Study
e purpose of this small-scale descriptive qualitative study
was to compare mother-child dyads engaged in a shared
reading versus an emergent reading interaction in order to
investigate if the mothers and children behaved dierently
in terms of the their language input during the interactions
(i.e., the number of utterances, the mean length of the
utterance [MLU], and number of questions) and whether
the socioemotional quality of the interaction is dierent
across the two interactions. We also investigated which of
these language and socioemotional aspects of the emergent
children’s concurrent early literacy skills, as measured by
performance on a standardized test of early literacy as well
as an emergent reading task.
4.1. Participants. esampleconsistedofmother-child
dyads with boys and girls. Children in these dyads
ranged from – months old (𝑀 = 50.96 months, SD =
8.33). e racial breakdown of the sample was such that
of the children were black (%), were white (%),
child was Latino (%), and children were Asian/Native
American/Biracial (%). In terms of general language ability,
all the children were in the normative range of two-standard
deviations from the mean as evidenced by Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test (PPVT-III; ) scores of 𝑀 = 101.67 (SD =
to years old (𝑀 = 30.60 years, SD = 5.04). Most of
the parents in these dyads either had a bachelor’s Degree
or went to graduate school (% of sample), while the rest
went to trade/vocational school beyond high school (%).
All but one of the mothers reported that they were currently
working for pay. Mothers, on average, were very literate as
indicated by Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT; )
reading scores equivalent to either high school or post-high
school level, which are among the highest literacy levels for
the test (𝑀 = 107.20,SD = 8.21,rangeof–).In
with the majority of mothers reporting that their annual
income was on average between , and ,. To
further assess the income level of the families, an income-to-
needs ratio was created by dividing income by the poverty
guideline for family size. e range of the income-to-needs
ratiowasfromtowithameanof.(SD = 1.09,𝑁=
21). Any ratio greater than . is above poverty. ere were
only mothers whose income-to-needs ratio placed them
as being at/below (ratios <.) or near poverty (ration >
. to .). is ratio has been widely used in other studies
to assess family SES (see [–]) and has been used as an
eligibility indicator for federal and state public assistance
4.2. Procedure. Families were recruited via letter and in-
person sign-ups at their child’s preschool or child care facility.
Parents who agreed to participate were then scheduled
for a -minute “family visit” within a laboratory setting
at a communications disorder department on a southern
university campus. A group of ethnically diverse research
assistants interviewed children and mothers separately for
the rst portion of the visit (approximately – minutes),
and during the last portion of the visit (approximately –
minutes) the dyad was brought together to be videotaped
engaging in the reading interactions in an observation room
During the separate children’s portion of the visit, assess-
ments of children’s language (i.e., PPVT-III) and literacy
skills were administered, and the interviewer read e Snowy
Day  to children. During the separate parent portion
of the visit, information about the family background and
mother’s literacy was taken. All data about the interaction
quality were based on ratings of the dyad during the reading
interaction; these ratings were conducted by the new research
assistants who had not been involved in data collection
and took place once the entire data collection period was
4.2.1. Reading Interactions. isstudyfocusesontherst
two reading interactions from Curenton et al. . Parents
were presented with two books and instructed to allow their
child to “pretend” to read e Snowy Day book that had just
previously been read to them and then to read Peter’s Chair
the way they normally would and to make themselves feel
comfortable. ey were reassured there was no right or wrong
way to do this and that the purpose was to get a sense of what
the dyad normally did when they read together.
e Snowy Day isastoryaboutaboy’sadventuresin
a track, avoids a snowball ght, and makes a snow ball that
eventually melts in his pocket. is is a popular children’s
children’s narrative abilities [–]. Peter’s Chair is about a
boy who struggles to accept the birth of his younger sister. e
plot provides opportunities for mothers to make comments
about emotions (e.g., by talking about Peter’s feelings of anger
and jealousy), misbehavior (e.g., Peter’s decision to take his
belongings and run away), and resolution (e.g., when Peter
decides to allow his furniture to be passed down to his
younger sister). is book has also been used in other studies
that examined children’s narrative skills . Peter is the main
character in both of the books. e Snowy Day reading is
hereaer referred to as the emergent reading,andPeter’s Chair
is hereaer referred to as the shared reading. ere were a total
of emergent reading interactions and shared reading
4.2.2. Transcription. Two graduate level research assistants
rst individually transcribed the interactions verbatim into
the child language analysis (CLAN) program ; then they
each independently listened to the tapes and checked each
other’s transcriptions for accuracy. Corrections to the tran-
script were made when discrepancies were observed. Aer
the rst author and a graduate assistant deleted repetitions,
irrelevant remarks (e.g., questions to the experimenter about
the procedures, repetitions within utterances, ller words,
and comments not related to the story), and as well as any
of the mother’s comments that were verbatim readings of the
text for the shared reading (see ). Interrater reliability for
the deletion procedure was determined for % (𝑛=total of
( per reading interaction) out of ) of the transcripts and
was calculated by dividing the total number of agreements
by the total number of item comparisons and multiplying
by . For the shared reading, the interrater reliability
averaged % (ranging from % to %) and interrater
reliability averaged % (ranging from % to %) for
the emergent reading. Disagreements were resolved through
T:Emergentreadingrubricfore Snowy Day .
Item number Item description Scoring (total possible = )
Says words that are actually on the page (at least % of time)
Produces an accurate portrayal of events on the current page (at least % of time)
Mentions internal thoughts and/or feelings of character (at least one mention)
Comment illustrating their memory/understanding that a stick made
a third set of track
Comment illustrating their memory/understanding that Peter is
younger/smaller than the other boys playing in the snowball ght
Comment illustrating their memory/understanding that Peter’s snowball
melts in his pocket or is “gone”
Uses typical story words like “once upon a time”, “one day”, or “the end” (at least one phrase)
4.3.1. Language Input. Utterances within the transcript were
segmented into communication units (C-units; ). e
guidelines for segmenting the narratives are described by
Curenton and Lucas . Typically, a C-unit must adhere to
a clausal structure, meaning it must contain a subject and
a verb. Given that the story interactions take place in the
form of a conversation and that people sometimes do not
adhere to a clausal structure when speaking in a conversation,
allowances were made for including utterances that did not
the story or the story interaction. Inter rater reliability (𝑛=3
per reading interaction) averaged % (ranging from % to
%) for shared reading and % (ranging from % to %)
for emergent reading. All disagreements were resolved via
conferencing. CLAN was then used to calculate the number
of utterances and the mean length of utterance (MLU) for the
mother and child, resulting in an individual score for each
across the two reading interactions.
4.3.2. Questions. Questions were coded by hand by the rst
author, and this consisted of a two-step process. First, the
transcripts were scanned for all interrogative statements,
next each interrogative statement was scrutinized to evaluate
the book. Only those questions that were specically related
to the content of the book, or a related conversation around
related to the procedure/ow of the task (e.g., “Will you let me
read this book to you? Are you listening?”) or questions used
simply to maintain the ow of the interaction (e.g., “Huh?
Hmm?”) were not counted. Questions related to managing
children’s behavior during the task or questions about the
experimental procedure (e.g., “What is that camera for?”)
were not counted either. e total number of questions
that were specically related to the book or a conversation
total number of mother’s questions for shared reading (𝑀=
9.17,SD = 7.46,range=–),total number of child’s
questions for shared reading (𝑀 = 2.53,SD = 4.12,range=
–), total number of mother’s questions for emergent reading
(𝑀 = 13.32,SD = 10.64,range=–),andtotal number of
child’s questions for emergent reading (𝑀 = 1.16,SD = 1.55,
range = –).
4.3.3. Early Reading Scores. Each child’s early reading abilities
were assessed using the Test of Early Reading Ability-ird
Edition (TERA-; ). Only children in the sample were
assessed using TERA- because ve of the children within
our sample fell below the age cut-o of years, months
for the assessment. e average TERA- score was .
(SD = 11.70, range = –). Based on the interpretation
of the TERA- reading quotients presented in the manual (p.
), our sample was broken down into children who had
average/above average scores and children who had below
average/poor reading scores. erefore, there was variation
across the sample in terms of children’s reading scores.
4.3.4. Emergent Reading Score. Successful emergent reading
strategies include accurately describing the pictures, using
vocabulary or phrases from the book, describing key events
from the book, and incorporating prior knowledge and
experience (see [,,]). An emergent reading rubric
modied from Valencia and Sulzby’s rubric,butalso
basedonthestrategiesElster, Sulzby, and colleagues 
described, was developed to assess children’s level of success
at emergent reading. e items for the rubric along with their
scoring criteria are detailed in Tab l e .Itemsontherubric
words from the text, whether they accurately described key
events in the story (i.e., items – that refer to the action
landscape of the story (see )), whether they made any
reference to Peter’s thoughts or feelings (e.g., what Curenton
 would refer to as the consciousness landscape of the
story), and whether they used certain key phrases common
during reading a story (e.g., “once upon a time” or “the end”).
Items , , and were scored in relation to the content
of the present page, meaning in order to receive credit for
an item the child must be reading from the page in which
the event occurred. e emergent reading score ranged from
a possible to points with higher scores indicating that
children had better emergent reading skills (𝑀 = 3.44,SD=
2.50, range of –). Cronbach’s alpha for the scale was ..
Furthermore, there was a signicant correlation between
children’s age and their performance on this measure (𝑟 = .81,
𝑃 < .001), which indicates the scale can consistently assess
age-related developmental progress, and between children’s
performance on this measure and their scores on the stan-
dardized TERA- (𝑟 = .45,𝑃 < .05).
4.3.5. Socioemotional Quality. Five qualitative ratings for
each reading interaction were used to characterize socioemo-
tional quality. e ratings were based on categorical scores
consisting of , , or . Examples of these ratings are included
in Table . ree of these codes rated the mothers’ behavior
during the interaction, literacy feedback,balanced control, and
redirection, and two of the codes rated children’s behavior,
task orientation and compliance. A trained undergraduate
research assistant coded all of the interactions from the
videotapes, and the rst author double-coded % of the
videotapes (𝑛=3per interaction) to check for interrater
reliability. Interrater reliability was assessed based on the total
percentage of point-by-point agreement for each rating and
was%.Cronbach’salphafortheseratingswas𝛼 = .84
across all the ratings.
5.1. Dierences in Language Input. In order to answer the
questions regarding dierences in language input paired
samples t-test were performed on the log transformed (e
log transformation of these values was used in the analyses
because the variables were not normally distributed.) values
for mothers’ and children’s language input across the reading
interactions. Results for these analyses are described in
Table , and they indicate that, as expected, mothers talked
more than children (i.e., used more utterances), used more
complex grammar (i.e., had longer MLUs), and asked more
questions than their children during the shared-reading.
However, during the emergent reading, although mothers
still asked more questions than children, they did not talk
more, and there was a trend (To avoid inating Type I error
associated with conducting multiple t-tests, the 𝑃value .
was divided by the number of t-test conducted (i.e., ),
resulting in an acceptable 𝑃valueof.forsignicanceof
each test) for children to use more complex grammar during
the emergent reading.
An interesting post hoc, qualitative aspect to describe is
the type of questions mothers asked across the two readings.
Mothers were more likely to ask questions that required
high-level reasoning during the shared reading versus the
emergent reading. For example, in dyad A, four (out of seven)
thought-provoking questions between a mother and her -
year-old son during the shared reading were, for example,
“So why do you think [Peter] wants to run away?” and
“Why do you think [his mother] thought that?,” compared to
only one (out of four) thought-provoking questions during
the emergent reading, “You remember when we made snow
angels?” Another example from dyad B between a mother
and her -year-old daughter shows that the level of the
“Why he run away?” and “Why is his mom being mean?”)
compared to zero questions during the emergent reading.
us, such qualitative examples show that shared reading has
an advantage over emergent reading when it comes to using
questions that promote higher-level reasoning.
5.2. Dierences in Socioemotional Quality. In order to answer
the question of whether or not the socioemotional quality of
the interaction diered across the two reading, Friedman’s
tests were conducted for each interaction rating, again cor-
recting for Type I error with a corrected 𝑃value of .. A
the socioemotional ratings represent repeated-measures non-
parametric ordinal data. e test comparing median dif-
ferences in literacy feedback across the two readings was
signicant (𝜒2= 6.40,𝑁=22,𝑃 = .011,Kendall’s𝑊=
.29), indicating that mothers provided higher-quality literacy
feedback during the shared reading than they did during the
emergent reading. All the other aspects of socioemotional
quality remained consistent across the two readings, and the
data in Tab l e illustrate the categories in which the majority
of the dyads were rated.
5.3. Associations with Early Literacy Skills. For this study,
two tests of early literacy skills were administered; one was
reading score created by the authors and based on children’s
reading of e Snowy Day. Interestingly, none of the lan-
scores, but socioemotional ratings during e Snowy Day
such as balanced control (Spearman’s 𝑟 = .50,𝑃 = .025,𝑁=
20)andliteracy feedback (Spearman’s 𝑟=.45,𝑃 = .048,𝑁=
20) were positively associated with children’s performance on
As expected, because the emergent reading score was
based on children’s performance during the interaction,
there were several signicant associations between that test
and the language input and socioemotional quality during
the emergent reading interaction. For example, number of
children’s utterances (Pearson’s 𝑟=.64,𝑃 = .001,𝑁=25)
and children’s MLU (Pearson’s 𝑟=.75,𝑃 < .001,𝑁=25)
was associated with their emergent reading scores. ere were
also several socioemotional quality ratings associated with
children’s performance, such as mother’s balanced control
(Spearman 𝑟=.58,𝑃 = .004,𝑁=23) and children’s task
orientation (Spearman 𝑟 = .52,𝑃 = .011,𝑁=23)and
compliance (Spearman 𝑟 = .59,𝑃 = .003,𝑁=23).
e purpose of this small-scale, descriptive study was to
examine the quality of mother-child interactions across
two types of reading interactions—shared reading versus
emergent reading—in order to determine (a) if mothers and
children provide the same amount of language input across
the two interactions, (b) if the socioemotional quality is
consistent across the interactions, and (c) if the language
T : Socioemotional Quality Ratings.
(a) MOTHER’S RATINGS
Rating 5: When watching this mother, you get the sense that she is trying to “extend” her child’s understanding of the book by interpreting
the book (e.g., the child says, “He’s riding in a blue car,” and the mom responds, “Yes, he is. Our car is blue too.” or “Yes, he is. What color is
our car?”) or by explaining the book content for parts they think may be unclear to the child (e.g., “at’s a snowball” or “He is trying to sit
in that little chair”). ese mothers provide high-level feedback/elaboration to the questions and/or comments the children pose.
Examples of high-level feedback include talking about the book aer reading it, asking open-ended questions that prompt the child to
predict what is going to happen, or making connections between the book and real life experiences.
Rating 3: ese mothers do not explain or interpret the book. Instead, they might simply repeat what the child had said without extending
or elaborating his/her comments at all (e.g., e child says, “He’s riding in a blue car,” and the mom responds, “Yes, he is riding in a blue
car, isn’t he?”). ese mothers provide low-level feedback/elaboration. Examples of low-level feedback are asking yes/no questions and/or
closed-ended questions that prompt the child to label/locate pictures in the book.
Rating 1: ese mothers do not ask questions or make comments, and they do not respond to the child’s comments about the book. ese
mothers do not provide any literacy feedback/elaboration during the interaction. ey seem to be passively participating in the
interaction. ey may even seem to be ignoring the child (i.e., the child’s interest and/or comments about the book.
Rating 5: ese mothers foster a balanced interaction because both the mother and child are equally contributing to the pace and agenda.
ere is the sense of a back-and-forth and turn-taking about the interaction.
Rating 3: ese mothers are in control of the interaction. ere is a sense of drill about this interaction (e.g., the mother asks a question;
then the child responds; then the mother asks a question; then the child responds).
Rating 1: ese mothers allow the child to set the pace and agenda of the task. ese mothers seem to be passive observers during the
Rating 5: ese mothers use a variety of redirection techniques when the child becomes distracted. For example, they may redirect the
child by drawing his/her attention to the book (e.g., “Oh, look what happened now.”) or by gentle directives that help the child direct their
attention (e.g., “Listen, listen.” or “Look, at this page.”)
Rating 3: ese mothers use criticism (“You are not being nice because you don’t want to read”). is criticism can be done in a blatant and
harsh manner or in a polite, sarcastic tone. ese mothers may also use verbal discipline (“Sit down!”) or physical discipline to redirect the
child (e.g., picking the child up and sitting him down if he walks away or by grabbing the child’s arm to make her turn around).
Rating 1: ese mothers do not attempt to redirect their child; she does not employ any type of redirection strategies. ese mothers do not
attempt to manage the child’s behavior (e.g., they might ignore misbehavior or the child’s distraction).
(b) CHILDREN’S RATINGS
Rating 5: ese children are interested in reading. ey are on task. Markers of being on task include concentrating on the book and/or
responding to the mother’s comments and questions. ese children are looking at the book.
Rating 3: ey sometimes seem disinterested in reading. ese children are distracted. Markers of distraction are looking at the camera
repeatedly or dgeting. ese children might be trying to stay on tasks, but it is hard for them to maintain concentration. ese
children sometimes look at the book and sometimes look away.
Rating 1: ese children may refuse to become involved in the reading. ese children are completely o task. Signs of being o task
include getting up and moving around during the interaction or playing with a toy. ese children never become focused on the task.
ese children are not looking at the book; instead, they are actively looking away.
Rating 5: ese children openly accept help from their mothers (e.g., turning the pages or holding the book together). When watching
the dyad, you get the sense that the child is cooperating with the mother.
Rating 3: ese children inconsistently accept help from the mother. Sometimes they accept her help, but other times they reject it.
When watching this dyad, you get the sense that they are engaged in a tug-of-war or power struggle.
Rating 1: ese children do not welcome help from the mother. ese children may even be disobedient, aggressive, or whiny. When
watching this dyad, you get the sense he/she is avoiding interacting with his/her mother.
input and socioemotional quality during the interactions is
dierentially associated with children’s scores on early literacy
assessments. In this study, shared reading was dened as a
book reading interaction in which the mother was instructed
to read a relatively unfamiliar children’s book the way that she
“normally” would with her preschooler; almost all of these
interactions took the form of the mother reading the story
and asking the child questions as she was reading. On
the other hand, for the emergent reading the mother was
instructed to allow her child to “pretend to read” to her using
a book that a research assistant had just previously read to
the child; the tone of these emergent reading interactions
T : Descriptive statistics for language input variables across
reading interaction conditions.
Shared reading (𝑁=)
Mother’s number of utterances . . .∗∗∗ .∗∗∗
Child’s number of utterances . .
Mother’s MLUA. . −. .∗∗∗
Child’s MLUA. .
Mother’s number of questions . . . .∗∗∗
Child’s number of questions . .
Emergent reading (𝑁=)
Mother’s number of utterances . . . .
Child’s number of utterances . .
Mother’s MLUA. . −. −.∗∗
Child’s MLUA. .
Mother’s number of questions . . . .∗∗∗
Child’s number of questions . .
Note: AMLU: mean length of utterance; B𝑡-tests and Pearson correlations
were conducted using the log transformation of language input variables.
T : Percentage (number of dyads) of socioemotional quality
ratings across reading interactions (𝑁=).
Rating Rating Rating
Mother’s literacy feedback % () % () —
Mother’s balanced control % () % () % ()
Mother’s redirection % () % () —
Child’staskorientation %() %() %()
Child’s compliance % () % () % ()
Mother’sliteracyfeedback %() %() %()
Mother’s balanced control % () % () % ()
Mother’s redirection % () % () —
Child’s task orientation % () % () % ()
Child’s compliance % () % () % ()
Note: All percentages may not add to due to rounding error.
was quite dierent in that mothers encouraged children to
tell the story by frequently asking the child to describe what
had happened on a particular page. Across all of the emergent
readings, only one mother actually read from the text of the
book, and even when she did it was just for one page.
erefore, shared reading interactions can be qualita-
tively described as the typical shared reading interaction in
which the mother reads from the text and creates a dialogue
around the book. In contrast, the emergent reading can be
described as a nontraditional reading in which the mother
allows the child to create the story using the pictures in
the book and shapes her dialogue around the information
the child provides. It is no mistake that mothers interpreted
their role during the two interactions quite dierently, and
there was a systematic dierence between the language
input and socioemotional quality that was provided during
the interactions. In addition, we found that dierent aspects
of the interactions were associated with children’s perfor-
mance on early literacy tests. Each of these results is discussed
6.1. Language Input. Results indicated that during the shared
reading interaction mothers took on the common role of
“leading” the interaction in that she talked more, spoke in a
more grammatically complex manner than the children, and
found during the emergent reading. During the emergent
reading, a null result indicated that no signicant dierence
existed between how much mothers and children talked. It
is evident when comparing the means for the number of
utterances that these null results were not a matter of mothers
talking less during the emergent reading interactions but
instead were a matter of children talking more. Children
talked % more during the emergent reading than they did
during the shared reading. Mothers did continue to ask more
questions during the emergent reading, but the grammatical
complexity of children’s talk during the emergent reading
increased because children started to speak using longer
suggest that children are actually attempting to “cra” a story
during the emergent reading. A qualitative example from
dyad C when a -year-old girl engages in emergent reading
is presented in the appendix.
6.2. Socioemotional Quality. Although we had hypothesized
that there were would be dierences in terms of the socioe-
motional quality of the interaction, the results did not
support this hypothesis. In fact, the quality of the interactions
remained quite consistent across the two readings, and overall
these interactions can be described as high quality. e
majority of dyads were categorized as providing Literacy
Feedback that would extend a child’s knowledge and as having
an interaction that was “balanced,” meaning that the dyad
engaged in productive turn taking. Most of the mothers used
a variety of redirection techniques when children became
distracted, but in general, the majority of the children were
on task and compliant during both of the readings.
e only socioemotional rating that varied was the
amount of literacy feedback that mothers provided. Dur-
ing the shared reading, mothers provided more high-level
feedback about the book compared to during the emergent
reading when she switched her feedback to more low level,
such as prompting the child to focus on the pictures to
tell the story. is change in literacy feedback is a natural
children were tasked with using the pictures to tell a story,
and therefore, many mothers focused on trying to direct
their child’s attention to these stimuli. Otherwise, the way
in which mothers managed the interaction and children’s
behavior remained the same despite the demands of the task.
e fact that all of the other aspects of the socioemotional
quality remained consistent is actually a positive testament
that indicates children were engaged and eager to participate
in both reading interactions.
6.3. Association with Children’s Early Literacy. Correlations
were conducted to investigate whether there was an asso-
ciation between children’s performance on tests of early
reading skills and the dyad’s behavior during the interaction.
In terms of the standardized assessment of early reading
results indicated that children from dyads that display higher
categories of balanced control and literacy feedback had higher
TERA- scores. Interestingly, none of the language input
variables were associated with children’s TERA- scores.
On the contrary, using the emergent reading score as an
early literacy assessment, showed there were several aspects
of the child’s language input and socioemotional behavior
during the emergent reading that were positively associated
with their scores. For instance, children who talked more and
used more complex grammar had higher scores on emergent
reading. Also, those children who were rated as being more
compliant and on task had higher emergent reading scores.
Similarly, as was found with the TERA, the way the mother
balanced control during the interaction was associated with
children’s emergent reading score, meaning that dyads that
were classied in the higher category of balanced control had
children who scored higher on emergent reading. Although
preliminary due to the small sample size, such correlations
provide promise in our understanding of the importance
of observing children’s language input and socioemotional
behavior during reading interactions. e important aspect
to observe in terms of mothers’ socioemotional behaviors
seems to be how she manages to share control of the reading
interaction with her child and the quality of her literacy
6.4. Research Contributions. is work makes a signicant
contribution to the literature because it is the rst study to
use a primarily middle-class African American sample to
investigate how mothers and children navigate two dier-
ent types of reading interactions. It is important to study
the language and literacy development of ethnically and
socioeconomically diverse children, particularly middle-class
African Americans, because the majority of the knowledge
base around African American children’s development con-
founds ethnicity and socioeconomic status (see [–]).
e sampling in this study will contribute to the body
of literature on African American children’s language and
literacy development in which ethnicity and socioeconomic
status are not confounded. Another contribution of this
work is the detailed quantitative comparison and post hoc
qualitative descriptions of the shared reading and emergent
reading interactions. Although emergent reading is a popular
education practice used both at home and school, no studies
have actually examined how it might dier from shared
Despite these important contributions, there were several
limitations to the current work. e rst limitation concerns
the modest sample size (𝑁=25)whichwasduetothelabor
intensive nature of repeated transcription and coding across
the two reading conditions. However, prior seminal studies
that contrasted emergent reading with oral narratives had a
similarsamplesize(see); therefore, we know that reliable
6.5. Educational Implications. Although much of the educa-
tion policy suggestions emphasize the importance of parents
reading to their children, this work indicates that there may
also be promise in amending these suggestions to encourage
parents to allow their young children to “read” to them as
well. is suggestion is especially important given that our
data show that children talk more during these interactions.
erefore, emergent readings may provide an opportunity
for children to shine as story tellers and to practice their
Emergent Reading of Snowy Day from
a 4-Year-Old Girl
(C=Child,M=Mother).In certain places the transcript has
been modied to for clarity of presentation; the transcript
is broken down by pages in order to facilitate the reader’s
understanding of the child’s narrative and to see how her
story lines up with the events from the book is taken from
a months old who attended private child care in a small
southern city. She lived in a middle-class family with an
average annual income of ,, and her mother had a
bachelor’s degree and worked as an insurance specialist. e
daughter had average language abilities (PPVT-III score = ;
TERA- = ) as measured by standardized assessments.
C: e Snowy Day. [Repeats the title.]eSnowyDay.
C: One day I woke up and everything [restarts], the
C: And I put on my snow shoes. And I went outside
M: Oh! [Mom acts surprised and excited about the
C: And I had a xxx [word could not be heard clearly].
C: And him saw footprints. Him toe went that way.
See! [pointing to the book].
M: I see.
C: And him toe went this way.
C: And him toe went every way.
C: And then him saw some track. But him saw a new
track right there.
was time xxx.
C: en a snowball fell on him head and him
makin(g) more tracks.
C: And then big boy(s) were throwing [mother inter-
M: At him? Oh, that was fun.
M: Oh, he was still small?
C: Uh huh. I think we missed that page [Child skips a
page but turns back.]
C: And him make a happy snowman.
C: And him make a snowman too [corrects herself ], a
M: A snow angel. at’s right.
C: And him climb up a big mountain and then him
C: But then him roll his snowball up and then xxx.
him dirty socks. [Corrects herself.]Himmomtakeo
him dirty socks.
C: And (he) taking a bath.
M: Gave him a bath.
C: And before him went to bed him look and he see
a snowball was in his pocket but they were all gone.
Snow cannot just stay in your pocket. ey need cold.
C: To help them.
M: at’s right. What happens ...[Restarts]Whatisit
the snow turns into when it melts?
C: Melt, melt, melt.
M: But when it melts what does the snow turn to?
Do you remember? Remember we lled the cup with
M: Ice. So when ice and snow melts what does it turn
M: When it gets warm what does it turn into? Do you
remember? [Waits for child to answer then moves on
C: Unh unh.
C: And him thinkin(g) about (how it) won’t be there
C: In the morning.
C: at’s all of Snowy Day. And him call out him
friends and him went to play with them.
M: Good job!
C: e end.
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