Book Talk between Fourth-Graders and Parents in Low-Income Families: Types of Parents Questions and Their Effects on Children’s Oral Response

Book Talk between Fourth-Graders and Parents in Low-Income Families: Types of Parents Questions and Their Effects on Children’s Oral Response

First Author: Ziyun Deng -- Harvard Graduate School of Education
Additional authors/chairs: 
James Kim
Keywords: Reading, Parents, storytelling, Literacy, Oral Language
Abstract / Summary: 

PURPOSE: The study investigates children’s oral response to different types of parent questions during literacy discussion at home. It aims to examine the association between the parent question patterns and child speech quality.

BACKGROUND: The study is conducted within READS for Summer Learning, a large-scale intervention designed to improve children’s reading comprehension by fostering their engagement with books. Over the summer, children received books that match their interests and reading levels. After children read the books, parents volunteered to talk with children about the books.

METHOD: 120 parent-child dyad participated in the study. The children were rising 4th graders from low-income families in North Carolina, USA. Digital audio recorders were distributed to parent volunteers with instructions “Talk to your child about the books as you normally would.” The recordings were transcribed and coded for CLAN, a computerized language analysis software. Parents’ questions are categorized into four types: (i.e. recap questions, key concept questions, detail questions, and interpretive-evaluative questions). Children’s oral responses were measured on vocabulary size and syntactic complexity using CLAN.

RESULTS and CONCLUSIONS: Pilot analyses of thirty-eight transcripts from nineteen families found recap questions such as “what is the book about” elicited the longest and richest children’s response, while questions about specific details yielded lower quality response. Questions about key ideas elicited richer response when it is a follow-up of the previous child utterance. Few parents asked interpretive-evaluated questions. The results suggest that parents can customize their questioning styles to elicit high quality oral language from children. For future research and practice, it is possible to coach low-income-and-education-level parents to use easy-to-master questioning strategies to elicit good oral language practice for their children.