Language 20and 20Literacy 20Promotion 20in 20Early by LnB5K1v5

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									         Language and Literacy Promotion in Early
   Childhood Settings: A Survey of Center-Based Practices
                   Stephen D. Green & Rick Peterson
   Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System, College
                               Station, Texas

                                   Jocelyn R. Lewis
                        Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

                                                   Abstract

The early childhood years serve as an essential foundation for subsequent literacy development. Despite the
increased attention given to children's early literacy development, gaps remain in our understanding of what is
actually taking place in child care programs across the nation. The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) to
assess the extent to which early childhood educators engage children in literacy-building activities, and (2) to
identify educator or programmatic characteristics associated with the promotion of early literacy activities in child
care centers. One hundred and eighty surveys were completed by early childhood educators attending regional
training events. Findings demonstrate that efforts are being made in a number of areas to engage children in a
variety of important language and literacy activities in their centers; however, a sizable minority of those
surveyed indicated that they do not frequently engage children in recommended activities. Multiple regression
analysis suggests that certain characteristics related to the educator and program itself appear to have a positive
influence on how often educators promote language and literacy activities in their centers: availability of print
materials, the educator's confidence in the training received in basic literacy skills instruction, and the number of
children cared for in a particular program. Implications for practitioners are discussed.


                                                Introduction

Learning to read and write at a high level of proficiency is a lifelong process; however, it is well
established that the early childhood years serve as an important foundation for subsequent literacy
development (Neuman & Dickinson, 2001; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Whitehurst & Lonigan,
2001). The degree to which children acquire requisite literacy skills is known to be a strong
predictor of future academic success and has long-term social and economic implications for families
and societies (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Werner & Smith, 1992). In a joint position statement
issued by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education
of Young Children (NAEYC), the authors state, "One of the best predictors of whether a child will
function competently in school and go on to contribute actively in our increasingly literate society is
the level to which the child progresses in reading and writing" (IRA/NAEYC, 1998, p. 30).

Reading aloud to children on a frequent basis is one of the most effective ways to promote early
literacy development among young children (Bus, van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Halle, Calkins,
Berry, & Johnson, 2003; IRA/NAEYC, 1998), yet only 58% of children ages 3 to 5 are read to daily
by a family member (Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2004). The discrepancies between those
who are exposed to daily book reading by a family member and those who are not are even more
pronounced for minority children as well as for those living in poverty. Surveys indicate that 47% of
Black, non-Hispanic children and 42% of Hispanic children were read to daily in 2001 compared with
64% of White, non-Hispanic children. Children living below the poverty line were also significantly
less likely to have been read to daily by a family member than children living at or above the
poverty threshold (46% versus 60%) (Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2004).

The importance of early literacy promotion in the home environment is well established (Bennett,
Weigel, & Martin, 2002; Bus, van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Sénéchal & LeFevre, 2002);
however, a growing number of children are spending large portions of their time in contexts outside
of the family. It is estimated that 52% of children ages birth to 2, and 74% of children ages 3 to 6
(not yet in kindergarten) spend time in nonparental care arrangements. Approximately 17% of
children birth to age 2, and 56% of children ages 3 to 6 (not yet in kindergarten) are enrolled in
center-based early childhood programs such as Head Start, day care centers, nursery schools, and
various other preschool programs (Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2004).
                                      Purpose of Study

Given the fact that children are spending so much time in nonparental care arrangements, it is
important to consider the role that early childhood programs can play in promoting children's early
literacy development (Dickinson & Sprague, 2001; Halle, Calkins, Berry, & Johnson, 2003). The
purpose of the present investigation is twofold: (1) to examine what efforts are being made by early
childhood educators1 to promote the early literacy skills of children enrolled in center-based
settings, and (2) to explore what factors are significantly associated with increased literacy and
language promotion in such programs.


The Role of Early Childhood Programs in Promoting Children's Emergent
Literacy Skills
For decades, many researchers, educators, and parents operated under the assumption that
learning to read and write were processes that began with formal school-based instruction in
kindergarten or first grade (Neuman & Dickinson, 2001; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998). Today,
however, there is broad consensus among researchers that the developmental precursors of formal
reading and writing (i.e., emergent literacy) emerge during the preschool years. Unfortunately,
millions of children grow up in home environments that fail to provide the support needed to foster
children's early literacy development (Barnett, 2001). Children who do not receive adequate support
from parents and other adults in the home environment must depend on outside sources such as
early childhood programs to fill the gap.

Numerous short- and long-term studies examining children's developmental progress while
attending early childhood programs indicate that preschool education in a variety of forms can, in
fact, play a significant role in helping children develop essential language and literacy skills (see
Barnett, 2001; Dickinson & Sprague, 2001; Halle, Calkins, Berry, & Johnson, 2003). However, the
impact of such programs appears to be influenced by a variety of factors including the quality of the
child care environment, teacher training/effectiveness, socioeconomic status of the child/family,
level of parental involvement, amount of time spent each day/week in the program, and overall
length of enrollment in the program (Barnett, 2001; Burchinal, Roberts, Riggins, Zeisel, Neebe, &
Bryant, 2000; Dickinson & Sprague, 2001; Halle, Calkins, Berry, & Johnson, 2003).


Research-Based Strategies for Promoting Children's Emergent Literacy
Skills
In recent years, several efforts have been undertaken to synthesize important research on
children's emergent literacy development with the goal of providing educators and parents with
research-based instructional strategies for enhancing children's literacy experiences during their
preschool years. Two of the most comprehensive syntheses were released in 1998 and include the
National Research Council's Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Snow, Burns, &
Griffin, 1998) and the joint position statement of the IRA and the NAEYC on early literacy
(IRA/NAEYC, 1998). In both of the above syntheses, the authors recommend that educators employ
a range of strategies to facilitate children's early literacy development.

Strategies that have been shown to be effective at promoting children's early literacy development
include reading aloud to children in an interactive style (Bus, van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995;
Dickinson & Smith, 1994; Hargrave & Sénéchal, 2000); fostering children's understanding of print
concepts (IRA/NAEYC, 1998; Teale, 1984; Stanovich & West, 1989); arranging the classroom
environment so that children have an opportunity to interact with books and other print materials
(Morrow & Weinstein, 1986; Neuman & Roskos, 1997); providing opportunities for children to
experiment with writing (Richgels, 2001; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998); familiarizing children with
letters of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds (Adams, 1990; IRA/NAEYC, 1998); and
involving children in activities that promote children's phonological skill development (Snow, Burns,
& Griffin, 1998).

While all of the above strategies have been shown to be effective, many experts contend that the
single most important teaching strategy for promoting children's early literacy development across
multiple domains (e.g., vocabulary growth, print awareness) is reading aloud to children in an
interactive style that engages them as active learners (Bus, van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995;
Halle, Calkins, Berry, & Johnson, 2003; Hargrave & Sénéchal, 2000; IRA/NAEYC, 1998; Whitehurst,
Arnold, Epstein, Angell, Smith, & Fischel, 1994; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001). When children are
encouraged to become active participants rather than passive listeners, they are more likely to
experience improvements in their vocabularies and comprehension abilities (Hargrave & Sénéchal,
2000; Karweit & Wasik, 1996; Whitehurst, Arnold, Epstein, Angell, Smith, & Fischel, 1994).


Research Questions
Numerous studies have examined the efficacy of comprehensive early childhood interventions,
which often include a strong literacy component (Liaw, Meisels, & Brooks-Gunn, 1995; Love et al.,
2002; Ramey & Campbell, 1984; Reynolds, 1994; Weikart, Bond, & McNeil, 1978). Results
demonstrate that comprehensive interventions can lead to positive short- and long-term outcomes
for children. In addition, ongoing efforts indicate that early childhood educators can be trained to
become effective at promoting research-based language and literacy practices in their centers (e.g.,
Landry, 2001).

Despite the increased attention given to the importance of promoting early literacy development in
early childhood programs, gaps remain in our understanding of what is actually taking place in early
childhood programs across the nation. While millions of children are enrolled in federally funded
programs such as Head Start, millions of children also attend other center- and home-based child
care programs where little is known about what is taking place with regard to early literacy
promotion. More studies are needed to determine what early childhood educators are currently
doing to develop the early literacy skills of the children in these environments. The present study,
which was guided by the following research questions, is an attempt to contribute to our
understanding of current practices in center-based settings:

    1.   To what extent do early childhood educators engage children in language and literacy
         activities in their centers?
    2.   What educator or programmatic characteristics are significantly associated with the
         promotion of language and literacy activities in early childhood centers?


                                             Method

Sample and Procedure
The sample for this study was drawn from a series of early childhood educator regional training
sessions conducted between April and July of 2004 in a large southern state. Training sessions were
conducted in three separate regions. The events included a general session and multiple breakout
sessions, which allowed participants to rotate through various topics. The training sessions
concentrated on general themes important to early childhood educators (e.g., child development,
discipline, nutrition, licensing standards) and were open to educators from a variety of public and
private early childhood programs. Prior to training sessions, paper-and-pencil surveys were
distributed in person to participants. Attendees were informed that the survey was strictly voluntary
and confidential.

One hundred and eighty center-based early childhood educators completed surveys. Sample
characteristics can be found in Table 1. As noted in the table, the vast majority of educators were
female (93.9%). The mean age of participants was 35.3, while the average length of time working
in the profession was 6.7 years. Hispanic/Latino educators made up the majority of the sample
(66.7%), followed by Caucasians (26.1%), African Americans (3.9%), and other (2.2%). Nearly
95% of respondents reported having obtained a high school diploma or greater, 16.7% reported
having obtained an associate's degree, and just over 7% reported having obtained an
undergraduate or graduate degree. The majority of early childhood educators in this sample worked
in public or private community-based child care centers other than Head Start (61.7%), while
18.9% worked in Head Start and 18.3% in church affiliated/faith-based programs. Over 95% of
centers represented in the sample were licensed or registered facilities.


                                    Table 1
                         Sample Characteristics (N = 180)
                        Variable*                    Percentage               Mean
          Age                                                                      35.3 years
          Years of Experience in Profession                                        6.7 years
                    1
          Gender
           Female                                             93.9%
           Male                                               1.7%
                        2
          Ethnicity
                            African American                  3.9%
           Caucasian                                          26.1%
           Hispanic/Latino                                    66.7%
           Other                                              2.2%
                                 3
          Education Level
           < High School Diploma                              1.7%
           High School Diploma                                70.6%
           Associate's Degree                                 16.7%
           Bachelor's Degree                                  6.1%
           Graduate Degree                                    1.1%
                   4
          Income
           Under $20,000                                      33.3%
           $20,000-29,000                                     22.2%
           $30,000-39,000                                     10.6%
           $40,000 and above                                  25.5%
                             5
          Program Type
           Center (other than Head Start)                     61.7%
           Head Start                                         18.9%
           Church Affiliated/Faith Based                      18.3%
                                                6
          Licensed and/or Registered Facility
           Yes                                                95.6%
           No                                                 2.2%

           *Note: 1Missing cases = 8; 2Missing cases = 2; 3Missing cases = 7; 4Missing cases =
           15; 5Missing cases = 2; 6Missing cases = 4.


                                     Instrumentation/Measurement

Language and Literacy Activities
To measure the degree to which early childhood educators promote language and literacy activities
in their centers, a 23-item survey (excluding demographic items) was developed. The survey began
with the following question: "In my early childhood program, we..." Participants were then
instructed to respond to a series of statements indicating how often they engage children in specific
activities (see the Appendix for survey items). Response options for each of the 23 items ranged
from 1 (Never) to 5 (Always).

Items focused on specific educational strategies associated with the promotion of children's
emergent literacy skills including (1) current caregiver-child reading practices, (2) instruction about
books, (3) exposure to books, (4) word and letter recognition, and (5) promotion of phonological
awareness. When combined to form a single measure of language and literacy promotion, the 23-
item scale showed excellent internal reliability (alpha reliability = .94).


Early Childhood Educator Characteristics
Demographic Variables. The following demographic variables were collected from participants: age,
gender, education level, race/ethnicity, household income, and number of years in the profession.
Open-ended questions were used to assess age and years of experience in the child care profession.
For education level, race/ethnicity, and income, participants were instructed to circle the most
applicable response from a finite set of choices.
Experience Teaching Basic Literacy Skills. Two global items were developed to measure early
childhood educators' experiences with teaching basic literacy skills. The first item asked, "Have you
received training on how to teach children to read?" The second item asked, "Do you feel you have
received adequate training in how to teach children basic literacy skills (examples: how to read,
recognize letters of the alphabet)?" Participants were given the choice of responding "Yes" or "No"
to both items.


Program Characteristics
Type and Status of Child Care Center. Early childhood educators were asked to identify the type of
program they worked for and to indicate whether or not they worked for a licensed or registered
facility.

Availability of Print Materials. The availability of print materials was measured using a global item
that asked participants to respond to the following statement: "In my early childhood program, we
have a wide selection of children's books and other print materials available at our facility."
Response categories ranged from 1 (Never) to 5 (Always).

Number of Children in Classroom. The number of children in a classroom was measured by asking
participants to fill in a numerical value corresponding to the number of children they (as individual
educators) care for in their centers.


                                                     Results

Language and Literacy Activities in Center-Based Early Childhood Settings
The first research question asked, "To what extent do early childhood educators engage children in
language and literacy activities in their centers?" In order to answer this question, frequencies were
run on participants' responses to the individual items included in the 23-item survey. Response
categories ranged from 1 to 5; however, the response percentages on several of the items fell
under 1%. Therefore, response categories were collapsed into the following three categories: (1)
always or often, (2) sometimes, and (3) seldom or never. Results indicate that early childhood
educators are making concerted efforts in a variety of areas to involve children in language and
literacy activities. Mean scores generated from the 23-item scale, along with the standard
deviations and percentages for subscale items, can be found in Table 2.
                                Table 2
             Language and Literacy Activities in Center-Based
                   Early Childhood Settings (N = 180)
                                                          %                 %
                                                       Reporting   %     Reporting
                                                       Often or Reporting Seldom
                           Variable                     Always Sometimes or Never M      SD
          Language and Literacy Promotion Scale           -        -       -      4.17 0.64
          (23-items)
           1. Read aloud to children in a group          78.3    16.7     5.0     4.24 0.90
          setting.
           2. Read aloud to children individually.       50.0    30.6     19.4    3.44 1.07
           3. Set aside special time each day to read   75.0   19.4        5.6    4.13 0.97
          to children.
           4. Read aloud a variety of books.            85.6    9.4        5.0    4.34 0.87
           5. Reread favorite books.                    82.8   12.8        4.4    4.28 0.90
           6. Talk about books read together.           68.9   20.6       10.6    3.95 1.11
           7. Ask children questions about the          74.4   17.8        7.8    4.10 1.06
          books.
           8. Provide opportunities for children to     82.2   13.3        4.4    4.31 0.90
          look at books and other printed materials
          on own.
           9. Teach children features of a book.        58.3   21.1       20.6    3.65 1.25
           10. Teach children that printed letters      63.3   19.4       17.2    3.74 1.21
          and words run from left to right and from
          top to bottom.
           11. Practice saying alphabet with the        93.3    5.0        1.7    4.60 0.68
          children.
           12. Teach children to recognize letters of   90.0    7.8        2.2    4.54 0.80
          alphabet.
           13. Teach children to distinguish            69.4   20.6       10.0    3.98 1.19
          between uppercase and lowercase letters.
           14. Help children learn the sounds each      78.9   12.2        8.9    4.23 1.09
          letter can represent.
           15. Teach children to write letters of       71.7   17.2       11.1    4.05 1.15
          alphabet.
           16. Help children to write their names.      74.4   16.1        9.4    4.10 1.13
           17. Help children identify different         88.3    8.3        3.3    4.57 0.80
          colors, shapes, and sizes.
           18. Help children learn opposites.           81.1   16.1        2.8    4.29 0.89
           19. Help children recognize numbers.         87.2    8.9        3.9    4.46 0.83
           20. Practice counting with the children.     88.9    9.4        1.7    4.57 0.75
           21. Choose books to read aloud that          77.2   16.7        6.1    4.16 0.93
          focus on sounds, rhyming, and
          alliteration.
           22. Have children sing or say a familiar     85.6   12.8        1.7    4.42 0.78
          nursery rhyme or song.
           23. Encourage children to make up new        63.9   20.6       15.6    3.85 1.17
          verses of familiar songs or rhymes by
          changing beginning sounds or words.


The first five questions on the survey assessed participants' reading practices with the children in
their centers. Survey results indicate that reading aloud to children in a group setting is the primary
way that early childhood educators engage children in shared book reading. Over 78% of
respondents reported that they often or always read aloud to children in a group setting compared
with only 50% who reported that they often or always read aloud to children on an individual basis.
Three-fourths (75%) of those surveyed indicated that they often or always set aside a special time
each day to read to children, while the vast majority (85.6%) often or always make a special effort
to read aloud a variety of different books and reread favorite books (82.8%).
Questionnaire items 6 and 7 asked participants to indicate the degree to which they talk about
books that they have read together and ask children questions about the books as they read. Nearly
70% (68.9%) of those surveyed responded that they do in fact talk about books they have read
together, while nearly three-fourths (74.4%) noted that they ask children questions during or after
book reading. When asked how often they provide opportunities for children to look at books and
other print materials on their own, a clear majority (82.2%) indicated that they provide such
opportunities often or always, while just over 17% reported that they sometimes (13.3%) or
seldom or never (4.4%) do so. A much smaller majority of respondents indicated that they make a
concerted effort to teach children various features of a book (58.3%—often or always) and that
printed letters and words run from left to right and from top to bottom (63.3%—often or always).

The next series of items (11-16) asked respondents to indicate how often they work with children to
recognize the letters of the alphabet, their corresponding sounds, and how to write the letters. Over
93% of those surveyed reported that they often or always practice saying the alphabet with children
in their centers; whereas only 6.7% indicated that they do so sometimes (5%) or seldom or never
(1.7%). Ninety percent of respondents noted that they often or always make an effort to teach
children to recognize letters of the alphabet. Only 10% reported doing otherwise (7.8%—
sometimes; 2.2%—seldom or never).

The percentages drop significantly when asked how often they help children learn to distinguish
between uppercase and lowercase letters, learn the sounds associated with each letter, and assist
children in learning how to write letters of the alphabet, including the children's names.
Approximately 70% (69.4%) indicated that they often or always teach children to distinguish
between uppercase and lowercase letters, while roughly 30% (30.6%) noted that they do so
sometimes (20.6%) or seldom or never (10%). Concerning the teaching of the sounds associated
with letters of the alphabet, 78.9% indicated that they do so often or always, while 21.1% do so
less frequently (12.2%—sometimes; 8.9%—seldom or never). A smaller percentage of early
childhood educators indicated that they teach children to write letters of the alphabet (71.7%—often
or always; 17.2%—sometimes; 11.1%—seldom or never) and their names (74.4%—often or
always; 16.1%—sometimes; 9.4%—seldom or never).

Questionnaire items 17 through 20 asked respondents to indicate how often they assist children in
identifying or learning various shapes, sizes, colors, opposites, and numbers, as well as how often
they practice basic counting skills. Nearly 90% of survey respondents reported that they often or
always help children identify different colors, shapes, and sizes; whereas only 11.6% reported doing
so on a less frequent basis. Over 80% of early childhood educators often or always help children
learn opposites (81.1%), recognize numbers (87.2%), and practice counting with the children
enrolled in their centers (88.9%).

The final three items on the survey assessed educators' efforts to assist children in developing
phonological awareness (i.e., the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in language). Nearly
80% (77.2%) indicated that they often or always select books to read aloud that focus on sounds,
rhyming, and alliteration, while over 20% do so less frequently (16.7%—sometimes; 6.1%—seldom
or never). Approximately 85% (85.6%) reported that children are often or always encouraged to
say or sing familiar nursery rhymes or songs. Fewer respondents reported that they often or always
encourage children to make up new verses or rhymes by changing the beginning sounds or words
(63.9%).


Educator and Program Characteristics Associated with Language and
Literacy Promotion in Early Childhood Centers
The second research question asked, "What are the educator or programmatic characteristics that
are significantly associated with the promotion of language and literacy activities in early childhood
centers?" To arrive at an answer to this question, seven independent variables were entered into a
multiple regression equation, including the early childhood educator's race/ethnicity, education
level, years of experience in the profession, literacy training received, and perceptions of literacy
training adequacy. The two remaining variables entered into the regression equation included
number of children cared for by the educator and the availability of print materials at the center.
Early childhood educator efforts to promote language and literacy activities in their centers served
as the dependent variable.
The racial/ethnic makeup of the sample was divided predominately into two groups, with Hispanics
and Caucasians making up nearly 93% (Hispanics = 66.7%; Caucasians = 26.1%); therefore, a
dummy variable was created for "race/ethnicity" in which Hispanics were coded as "1" and all other
groups were coded as "0."

In a small number of cases, respondents failed to respond to all items on the survey; therefore,
missing values were replaced by the mean for those particular items. Results from the multiple
regression analysis, including standard error coefficients, unstandardized and standardized beta
coefficients, and significance levels, can be found in Table 3. Forty-five percent (R2 = .45) of the
variation in the dependent variable (early childhood educator efforts to promote language and
literacy activities) was explained by the independent variables under consideration, F(7, 172) =
19.91, p < .001.


                                Table 3
          Results from Multiple Regression Analysis (N = 180)
                       Variable                     B                 SE B           β
          Availability of Print Materials at       .40                 .05         .52**
          Center
          Education Level of Educator              .09                 .06          .09
          Number of Children Cared for by          .01                 .01          .17*
          Educator
          Perceived Adequacy of Training           .56                 .10         .36**
          Received
          Race/Ethnicity of Educator               .09                 .08          .07
          Training Received in How to              -.08                .09          -.06
          Teach Reading
          Years of Experience in Profession        .01                 .01          .10
                                               *          **
           Note: SE = standard error. p < .01.                 p < .001.

The following variables were found to significantly influence early childhood educators' efforts to
promote language and literacy activities in their centers: availability of children's books and other
print materials at the center (β = .52, p < .001); perceived adequacy of basic literacy skills training
(i.e., confidence that the educator has received adequate training related to teaching children basic
literacy skills) (β = .36, p < .001); and the number of children cared for by the early childhood
educator (β = .17, p < .01).


                                               Discussion

Early childhood educators in this sample appear to be making concerted efforts to engage children
in a variety of important language and literacy activities in their centers. The majority of
respondents indicated that they make frequent attempts to read aloud to children in a group
setting. Two-thirds of those surveyed set aside a special time each day to read with the children in
their care, and it appears from their responses that these reading experiences are accompanied by
attempts to actively involve children in the process. A clear majority of educators not only talk
about books they have read together (68.9%), but also ask children questions during and after
reading times (74.4%). As noted earlier, these strategies are consistent with researchers'
recommendations for strengthening the language and literacy skills of preschool-age children
(Hargrave & Sénéchal, 2000; IRA/NAEYC, 1998; Whitehurst, Arnold, Epstein, Angell, Smith, &
Fischel, 1994).

An examination of early childhood educators' practices also revealed that they provide frequent
opportunities for children to interact with books and other print materials on their own, which can
lead to greater print awareness (Morrow & Weinstein, 1986; Neuman & Roskos, 1997). Over 80% of
respondents reported that they often or always provide children opportunities for self-directed
interaction with print materials. In a related manner, the majority of those surveyed also indicated
that they make frequent attempts to teach children various features of books, including the fact that
printed letters and words run from left to right and from top to bottom on a page (63.3%).

Another recommended strategy that these early childhood educators appear to be focusing great
attention on in their centers is the alphabetic principle (i.e., understanding that there is a
relationship between letters and sounds) (Adams, 1990). Ninety percent of respondents indicated
that they teach children to recognize letters of the alphabet, while over 90% (93.3%) often or
always practice saying the alphabet with the children. A sizable majority (78.9%) of respondents
also make frequent attempts to teach children the sounds that are associated with the letters of the
alphabet.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed make frequent efforts to engage children in writing exercises,
which can facilitate subsequent literacy development (Richgels, 2001; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998).
A clear majority of respondents work with children to help them identify various shapes, colors,
sizes, numbers, and opposites. It is unknown, however, how early childhood educators go about
teaching these concepts.

The final three items on the survey addressed activities that promote phonemic awareness, an
important predictor of later reading success (IRA/NAEYC, 1998; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
Educators reported that they frequently choose books to read aloud that focus on sounds, rhyming,
and alliteration; have children sing or say familiar nursery rhymes; and encourage children to make
up new verses of songs or rhymes.

While the above results appear to be very positive in terms of educator efforts to promote the early
literacy skills of children in center-based care, a sizable minority of educators in this sample
indicated that they do not frequently engage children in recommended literacy-based activities.
Over 20% of respondents reported that they do not read aloud to children on a frequent basis (i.e.,
often or always), and an even greater percentage fail to read to children one-on-one. Also
somewhat disturbing is the fact that a sizable percentage of respondents do not make frequent
attempts to ask children questions during or after reading times. Approximately 8% reported that
they never ask children questions about the books during or after the shared experience. The same
applies to activities that facilitate children's phonemic awareness.

Results from the multiple regression analysis suggest that certain characteristics related to the
educator and the program itself appear to have a positive influence on how often educators promote
language and literacy activities in their centers. Availability of print materials at the center was one
of the strongest predictors of early childhood educators' willingness or ability to engage children in
important literacy activities. Studies have revealed that a minimum of five books per child are
necessary to provide a basic print-rich environment (Morrow & Weinstein, 1986; Neuman & Roskos,
1997). Insufficient resources, such as a lack of high-quality children's literature, can hinder the
ability of educators to provide essential literacy experiences for children. The IRA and NAEYC
recommend in their position statement that early childhood classrooms, schools, and public libraries
include a wide range of high-quality children's books, computer software, and other multimedia
resources (IRA/NAEYC, 1998).

The other two variables significantly associated with early childhood educators' efforts to promote
language and literacy activities in their centers included the educator's confidence in the training he
or she received in basic literacy skills instruction and the number of children cared for in a particular
program. Educators who perceived that they had received adequate training in how to teach
children basic literacy skills (e.g., how to read, recognize letters of the alphabet) were more likely to
engage children in frequent language and literacy activities. Interestingly, simply having received
some training in how to teach children how to read did not significantly predict greater efforts to
promote children's literacy skills. These results seem to imply that educators must be confident in
the level of training they have received before they are willing to make greater efforts to promote
certain literacy-based activities. More opportunities for training are likely needed.

The regression analysis revealed that educators caring for larger numbers of children were more
likely to promote language and literacy activities in their centers. This finding is somewhat
surprising given our typical assumptions about class sizes (i.e., the smaller the better). However, in
this study, the average number of children cared for was 14.7, well below the maximum
recommended group size of 20 for 4- and 5-year-olds (Howes, Phillips, & Whitebook, 1992; Cost,
Quality, and Child Outcomes Study Team, 1995). In the present investigation, data were not
collected on adult-to-child ratios. It is very possible that early childhood educators in this study
have assistance in their classrooms. If an additional adult were to be present in the classroom, the
adult-to-child ratio would be approximately 1:7, which falls within recommended guidelines for
adult-to-child ratios (IRA/NAEYC, 1998). There is some evidence, however, that young children can
benefit from large-group activities. Dickinson and Sprague (2001) report that in their Home-School
Study of Language and Literacy Development (HSLLD), children as young as 3 and 4 years old
benefited from participating in large-group language and literacy activities.

While the outcomes from this study provide valuable insight into early childhood educators' efforts
to promote children's literacy development, the data have limitations that should be noted. First,
the data collected in this investigation are based solely on the early childhood educator's
perspective. Self-report data are widely used across the social sciences; however, such data are
susceptible to social desirability bias. In addition, it would be helpful in future studies to consider
the perspective of others (e.g., parents) who can provide insight into early literacy practices with
children. For example, parents could share what they do in the home environment to promote their
children's language and literacy skills, or they could provide an additional perspective on their
children's experiences at the centers.

Second, although respectable in size, the sample used in the present investigation was not
randomly selected; therefore, it may or may not be fully representative of early childhood programs
across the nation. Some early childhood programs have greater access to funding sources and
training support, enabling them to focus more attention on early literacy issues. In subsequent
studies, it would be helpful to randomly select a group of educators from various early childhood
programs to determine the extent to which early literacy skills are taught and if differences exist
between program types.

Third, while results clearly indicate that the majority of early childhood educators in this sample
believe they are implementing various activities to promote children's literacy development, the
data are limited in the sense that they do not allow conclusions to be made concerning how the
activities are actually implemented. For example, what strategies are these educators using to teach
children how to recognize letters of the alphabet? How do they help children learn the sounds that
each letter can represent? What types of questions do they ask children before, during, or after
individual or group reading times? In what ways do they help children develop early writing skills? It
is entirely possible that respondents in this sample believe they are doing the things necessary to
promote children's literacy development, when in fact they might not have received sufficient
training to know whether or not what they are doing is based on best practices established in the
research.

Related to the above, respondents were asked only two questions on the survey that dealt with
their training in basic literacy skills instruction (i.e., Have you received training on how to teach
children to read? Do you feel you have received adequate training in how to teach children basic
literacy skills?). It is important to know the answer to these two questions; however, more
information could have been collected related to their experiences. For example, how much training
have they received in early literacy instruction? Where did they obtain their training? In what areas
do they need more in-depth training? What expectations exist to teach early literacy skills to the
children in their care? As indicated in Table 1, the highest education level for over 70% of the
respondents was a high school diploma. Unless they have actively sought out training in early
literacy skills instruction, it is unlikely that many of these individuals have had formal training in this
subject matter area.

More studies are needed in the future to determine with greater detail what types of strategies are
actually being implemented to promote children's early language and literacy skills. Along the same
lines, future efforts need to focus on early childhood educators' experiences with training in early
literacy instruction. More data need to be collected to determine how much training is typically
received by early childhood educators, what opportunities exist for training, the quality of the
training, and the potential gaps that currently exist in early childhood educators' understanding of
early literacy development that could be addressed by future trainings.


                             Implications for Practitioners

In recent years, greater attention has been given to the role of early childhood education programs
in promoting the language and literacy skills of preschool-age children. The early years of a child's
life are a critical time for acquiring important language and literacy skills. Researchers, educators,
parents, and policy makers are increasingly coming to the conclusion that more effort needs to be
given to strengthening the quality of child care programs across this nation. While many educators
are making tremendous strides in promoting activities that build the literacy skills of children in
their centers, a large number of early childhood educators do not have the education or training
required to help children develop the essential literacy skills they will need upon entrance into
formal schooling arrangements.

Findings from this study and others indicate that there are factors that influence the ability and
willingness of early childhood educators to promote important language and literacy activities in
their centers. Educators need access to high-quality children's literature, including age-appropriate
books and other print materials. They also need more in-depth training that provides them with the
latest research-based information on how to teach children fundamental literacy skills. Federally
funded programs such as Head Start receive some degree of support to promote early literacy
development within their centers; however, millions of children are cared for in programs that do
not have financial support nor access to high-quality training in this area. More attention needs to
be focused on how early childhood educators working in nonfederally funded programs can receive
support and training that will assist them in their efforts to help children acquire essential early
literacy skills.


                                               Notes

1. The term "early childhood educator" is used throughout this article in a broad sense to
encompass teachers, child care providers, and other practitioners who work with children in center-
based preschool settings. For a more in-depth discussion of issues related to terminology in the
early childhood field, the authors refer readers to Ron Banks' article "Terminology in the Child Care
Field," which is available online at http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/poptopics/terminology.html.


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                                          Author Information

Dr. Stephen Green serves as assistant professor and Extension child development specialist with Texas
Cooperative Extension at Texas A&M University. He received his B.A. in psychology from the University of
California, Davis, his M.S. in marriage and family therapy from Harding University, and his Ph.D. in family and
child development from Virginia Tech University. Dr. Green's research interests include father-child relationships,
the role of parental involvement in children's early learning, and children's literacy development. He is the author
of the Fathers Reading Every Day (FRED) curriculum.


                                           Stephen D. Green, Ph.D.
                         Assistant Professor and Extension Child Development Specialist
                                          Texas Cooperative Extension
                                        The Texas A&M University System
                                                   2251 TAMU
                                         College Station, TX 77843-2251
                                            Telephone: 979-845-6468
                                               Fax: 979-845-6496
                                            Email: s-green@tamu.edu


Dr. Rick Peterson serves as assistant professor and parenting specialist with Texas Cooperative Extension at
Texas A&M University. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a certified family life educator, and a
trained mediator, and he holds degrees from Kansas State University including a B.A. in agriculture, a M.S. in
marriage and family therapy, and a Ph.D. in family life education. He conducts workshops and applied research
related to parenting and family life and has written numerous Extension publications, curricula, and peer-
reviewed journal articles. One of Dr. Peterson's current initiatives is the integration of technology into program
delivery of Extension programs and materials through Web access as well as self-paced learning modules for
parents, caregivers, and family professionals.


                                    Rick Peterson, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., C.F.L.E.
                              Assistant Professor and Extension Parenting Specialist
                                           Texas Cooperative Extension
                                        The Texas A&M University System
                                                   2251 TAMU
                                         College Station, TX 77843-2251
                                         Email: rlpeterson@ag.tamu.edu


Jocelyn R. Lewis is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at Texas A&M University.


                                                Jocelyn R. Lewis
                                                 Graduate Student
                                             Department of Sociology
                                              Texas A&M University
                                           Email: jocelyn@neo.tamu.edu


                                                  Appendix

             Language and Literacy Promotion Survey Items
In my early childhood program, we... Never Seldom Sometimes Often Always
Read aloud to children in a group setting.                1          2             3            4         5
Read aloud to children on an individual
                                                          1          2             3            4         5
(one-on-one) basis.
Set aside a special time each day to read
                                                          1          2             3            4         5
to the children.
Read aloud a variety of different books
(e.g., rhyming books, alphabet books,
                                                          1          2             3            4         5
counting books, traditional literature,
picture books).
Reread favorite books.                                    1          2             3            4         5
Talk about books that we've read
                                                          1          2             3            4         5
together.
Ask children questions about the books
                                                          1          2             3            4         5
as we read (or after we read).
Provide opportunities for children to look
at books and other printed materials on                   1          2             3            4         5
their own.
Teach children about different features of
a book (e.g., front and back cover, top                   1          2             3            4         5
and bottom).
Teach children that printed letters and
words run from left to right and across                   1          2             3            4         5
the page and from top to bottom.
Practice saying the alphabet with the
                                                          1          2             3            4         5
children.
Teach children to recognize letters of the
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
alphabet.
Teach children to distinguish between
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
uppercase and lowercase letters.
Help children learn the sounds that each
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
letter can represent.
Teach children to write letters of the
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
alphabet.
Help children learn to write their names.                1         2             3           4         5
Help children identify different colors,
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
shapes, and sizes.
Help children learn opposites (e.g., up,
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
down).
Help children recognize numbers (i.e., 1-
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
10).
Practice counting with the children.                     1         2             3           4         5
Choose books to read aloud that focus on
sounds, rhyming, and alliteration (i.e.,
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
recognizing the common sounds at the
beginning of a series of words).
Have children sing or say a familiar
                                                         1         2             3           4         5
nursery rhyme or song.
Encourage children to make up new
verses of familiar songs or rhymes by                    1         2             3           4         5
changing the beginning sounds or words.




 Picture Book Reading Experience and Toddlers’ Behaviors
               with Photographs and Books

                             Kathryn L. Fletcher & Jason Sabo
                                    Ball State University

                                                  Abstract

This study investigated the relationship between picture book reading and 15-month-old toddlers' behaviors with
photographs and books. During a pretest, 15-month-olds were presented with one photograph every 15 seconds
(i.e., eight photographs in total). Immediately after the pretest, toddlers and their teachers read several short
picture books (i.e., reading interaction). The same eight photographs were then re-presented in the same format
to toddlers (posttest). Toddlers' behaviors were scored from videotapes as manual investigation (e.g., hitting,
touching, or grasping motions) or pointing. Parents also completed 12 questions from the Stony Brook Family
Reading Survey. Following a brief reading interaction, toddlers' use of manual investigations remained the same
from pre- to posttest, but toddlers' pointing decreased from pre- to posttest. In general, toddlers whose parents
reported that they had lower levels of interest in books were more active with both photographs and books than
the toddlers whose parents reported higher levels of interest in books. Toddlers' use of manual investigations
with photos during the pretest was significantly higher for those toddlers with less reported interest in books
compared with the toddlers with higher levels of reported interest in books (M = 7.83 and 1.29, respectively). As
theorized by previous researchers, results indicate a link between picture book reading experience and toddlers'
behaviors with photographs. Implications for the type of picture books used during reading interactions with
young children are discussed.


                                              Introduction

Symbols are pervasive in our culture and directly influence cognitive development. Gauvain (1995)
states that "...symbolic tools and resources are developed and used by cultures to support mental
activity. As such, they play a central role in the development and organization of cognitive skill" (p.
33). For this reason, symbolic thinking has figured prominently in theories of cognitive
development. Major achievements in symbolic thinking are evident in the second year of life; these
achievements are revealed by infants' use of gesture, language, and symbolic play (see, e.g.,
Acredolo & Goodwyn, 1988; Bretherton, O'Connell, Shore, & Bates, 1984). However, young
children's understanding and use of symbols such as pictures, models, and dolls is tentative (see
Uttal et al., 1998, for a review). DeLoache and her colleagues (DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, Uttal,
Rosengren, & Gottlieb, 1998) have examined factors that influence young children's symbol use
such as prior experience with symbols (Marzolf & DeLoache, 1994), the salience of symbols as
objects (e.g., DeLoache, 1995), symbol-referent similarity (see, e.g., DeLoache, Kolstad, &
Anderson, 1991), and delay intervals (see, e.g., Uttal, Schreiber, & DeLoache, 1995). DeLoache
(1987, 1989) has hypothesized that young children have difficulty with the dual nature of symbols;
that is, children view symbols as both physical entities and as representations of something else.

Pictures are one of the most prevalent symbolic media in our culture. Even newborns and very
young infants perceive pictures. Five-month-olds recognized similarities between a real face and its
photograph when researchers used a habituation paradigm (Dirks & Gibson, 1977). Moreover,
infants appear to detect similarities between two- and three-dimensional stimuli (DeLoache,
Strauss, & Maynard, 1979; Rose, 1977; Slater, Rose, & Morison, 1984). However, when an object
and a photograph of the object were presented simultaneously, 9-month-olds consistently reached
for real objects before reaching for the photographs (DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, Uttal, Rosengren, &
Gottlieb, 1998). Although this literature attests to the early competence of picture perception in
infants, children's understanding of pictures as representations develops somewhat later. When
presented with highly realistic color photographs of individual objects, 9-month-olds behaved
toward photographs as if they were real objects; they were recorded as rubbing, hitting, and even
trying to grasp the depicted objects (herein called manual investigations) (DeLoache, Pierroutsakos,
Uttal, Rosengren, & Gottlieb, 1998). In contrast, when black-and-white line drawings were
presented, 9-month-olds were less likely to use manual investigations (Pierroutsakos & DeLoache,
2003).

Yet as infants get older, they do not continue to interact with photographs in this manner.
Developmental differences were found in children's responses to photographs, with 9-month-olds
using manual investigations significantly more than 15- and 19-month-olds (DeLoache,
Pierroutsakos, Uttal, Rosengren, & Gottlieb, 1998). In addition, 19-month-olds pointed more than
did the younger two groups. Thus, by the age of 19 months, infants rarely attempt to manually
explore pictures; instead, they point to pictures.

Pointing to pictures, as opposed to manually investigating pictures, suggests that infants of this age
have developed a concept of pictures. DeLoache (e.g., DeLoache & Burns, 1994; DeLoache,
Pierroutsakos, & Troseth, 1996) has postulated that infants develop a picture concept consisting of
a two-part mental representation: (1) knowledge associated with the depicted object and (2) the
tag (picture of). Inclusion of the tag (picture of) in the representation invalidates knowledge about
the depicted object involving its physical properties, thus reducing infants' manual exploration of
pictures and increasing their pointing.

Pointing in infancy has been hypothesized to be a means of expressing interest and directing
attention to an object or event (Franco & Butterworth, 1996; Werner & Kaplan, 1963). In response
to infants' pointing, mothers typically provide labels (i.e., a name for an object or event) (DeLoache
& DeMendoza, 1987; Masur, 1981; Murphy, 1978; Ninio & Bruner, 1978). DeLoache, Pierroutsakos,
Uttal, Rosengren, and Gottlieb (1998) also found that infants' pointing was often accompanied by
their own labels for pictures and that "As they pointed, the children often looked up to a parent or
the experimenter, apparently attempting to initiate an interaction about the picture" (p. 208). Thus,
toddlers' use of pointing signals that they realize the function of "pictures as vehicles for
conversation" (DeLoache & Burns, 1994, p. 106).

To try to explain this developmental change, DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, and Troseth (1996) theorized
that throughout the first few years of life children are exposed to pictures in books as well as
reading interactions with caregivers. According to DeLoache, these experiences facilitate the
development of a concept of picture. Consistent with this theory, parents' behaviors during reading
often reinforce the representational function of pictures. Examining a mother and her child from the
age of 8 months to 18 months, Ninio and Bruner (1978) found labeling to be much more frequent
with pictures compared with specific objects. Similarly, DeLoache and DeMendoza (1987) found that
mothers of 12-, 15-, and 18-month-olds used labeling 60% of the time when they provided
information during picture book reading. Mothers of 9- and 14-month-olds pointed and labeled
pictures, whereas mothers of 20- and 24-month-olds pointed and asked questions, typically a "wh-"
question (Murphy, 1978). In general, with children under age 18 months, parents overwhelming
point to and label pictures during reading interactions (Fletcher & Reese, 2005). Thus, parents
demonstrate during picture book reading that pictures are representations for conversation rather
than objects to be manipulated.

Theoretically, the impact of picture book reading on infants' concept of pictures is compelling. Yet
no empirical research has examined the effects of picture book reading on infants' picture concepts.
The goal of this study was to examine the influence of picture book reading on infants' responses to
photographs and books. Fifteen-month-olds participated in the current study because these toddlers
were likely to use both manual investigations and pointing. We hypothesized that a brief reading
interaction would change the frequency of manual investigations or pointing during the posttest.
The current study attempted to address the following questions:


       Would toddlers' rates of manual investigation or pointing change after a brief reading
        interaction?
       Would toddlers use similar behaviors (i.e., manual investigations and pointing) with
        photographs and picture books?
       Would parental reports about home literacy activities relate to toddlers' behaviors with
        photographs and picture books?


                                             Methods

Participants
Toddlers around the age of 15 months were recruited from two child care centers in a medium-size
midwestern city that served children from middle- to upper-income families. Thirteen toddlers
completed the session. The mean age of the sample was 15.5 months, with a range from 14 to 17
months. There were six males and seven female participants. Twelve of the participants were White,
and one child was biracial. Each center served a similar population of children and families. In
addition, literacy activities for toddlers in each center were similar: each classroom had a small,
easily accessible bookshelf containing age-appropriate books for toddlers.


Materials
Each child was seated in a typical toddler booster seat with a plastic tray placed in front of him/her.
A transparency protector was mounted on the tray. This placement allowed the photographs to be
placed in front of the children (photos were slid into the transparency protector), yet prevented
children from picking up or moving the photos during the session. Children were then presented
with eight color photographs. These photographs were pictures of small common plastic toys (i.e.,
car, man, cat, bottle, shape, ball, bear, and baby). Each photographed toy was approximately 3 cm
x 3 cm, and the remaining background of the photo was dark gray. These photographs were
laminated into eight individual cards that were 26 cm x 14.5 cm. Two sets of these photographs
were made for two different orders of presentation. (Two different orders of photograph
presentations were used to reduce any influence of one specific presentation order.)
For the reading interaction, teachers were given a set of five books to read to the children: (1)
Counting Farm (Henderson, 1995), (2) Things (Hughes, 1994), (3) I See (Oxenbury, 1985), (4) I
Hear (Oxenbury, 1985), and (5) Baby's ABC (Paterson, 1992). Each book was a simple picture book
with simple pictures, but not photographs, of everyday items.

Parents were also asked to complete The Stony Brook Family Reading Survey (Whitehurst, 1993).
The survey contains 55 questions about reading in the home and school; however, for our purposes,
only the first 12 questions were presented to parents. For the current study, 4 questions of the 12
questions were examined from the Stony Brook Reading Survey (Whitehurst, 1993): (1) How often
do you read with your child? (2) How many minutes did you read yesterday? (3) How much does
your child enjoy reading? (4) How often does your child look at books alone?


Procedure
Each phase of the experiment was conducted during one 10- to 15-minute session in the child care
center. For all participants, teachers remained seated beside children during the pretest and
posttest, and teachers read to children during the reading interaction. Reading surveys were sent
home to parents and returned to the child care center with informed consent forms.

Pretest. The procedure was similar to the protocol used in DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, Uttal,
Rosengren, and Gottlieb (1998). Toddlers were seated in a booster seat, and teachers sat beside
them. Eight photographs were presented at 15-second intervals in one of two orders of
presentation. Photographs were slid into a transparency protector. The toddlers could see and
interact with the picture without being able to move the picture during the 15-second interval. The
experimenter used a stopwatch for photo presentation. While the children were videotaped, the
teachers were instructed to only interact with children if they became upset.

Reading Interaction. Following the pretest, teachers were asked to read five short picture books to
children. Sometimes, children remained seated in the booster seat; at other times, children wanted
to sit in the laps of their teachers. Before each session, teachers were instructed to point to each
picture, read only the text in the book, and not prompt children to respond to the pictures such as
saying, "Point to the cat" and "Show me the cat." Videotapes were reexamined to ensure that
teachers followed these instructions. No teacher was observed to use these types of prompts; thus,
toddlers' behaviors during the reading interactions were spontaneous. The reading interactions
lasted, on average, between 4 and 5 minutes.

Posttest. The same procedure used for the pretest was used during the posttest. The toddlers were
presented with the same order of photos from the pretest.


Data Reduction
The scoring protocol similar to DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, Uttal, Rosengren, and Gottlieb (1998) was
used in the present study. Behaviors from the pre- and posttest were coded as well as the first 2
minutes of the reading interaction. Behaviors were coded for each second of the 2-minute pretest
and posttest and for each second during the first 2 minutes of the reading interaction if (1) the
infant was looking at the picture with his/her hand or hands on the page, and (2) infants' hands or
fingers touched the picture or touched within a 1-cm radius around the picture. Behaviors were
considered to have ended when the infant looked away, changed hands, moved his/her hand from
the picture, and/or initiated a different type of behavior (e.g., rubbing or hitting). For this protocol,
two main behaviors were classified: (1) manual investigations, which included infants' attempts to
grasp a picture (curling of the fingers), and any other manual behavior toward the photo such as
rubbing pictures or hitting pictures, and (2) pointing, which included the extension of an index
finger toward the picture. Two raters scored the same 10 pre- and posttest interactions. Overall
percent agreement was 77%, and percent agreement plus or minus one was 92%. For the final
dataset, the two raters observed those behaviors that resulted in disagreement and reached a
consensus about the toddlers' behaviors. This final dataset was analyzed.


                                               Results

Behaviors with Photographs: Pretest-Posttest
Toddlers used both manual investigations and pointed to photos during the pretest (r = .76, p <
.001), indicating that toddlers around 15 months of age are in a transition phase. Although the use
of manual investigations did not change from pre- to posttest (M = 4.31 and 6.15, respectively, t =
1.07, p = .30), the use of pointing significantly decreased from pre- to posttest (M = 4.77 and 2.77,
respectively, t = 2.30, p < .05). This finding suggests that following reading toddlers were less
likely to point to photos.


Behaviors with Photographs versus Behaviors during Reading
To compare the rates of manual investigation and pointing between photographs and books, we
examined behaviors during the pretest with photos and the behaviors used during the 2-minute
reading interaction. If children were active during reading, they were likely to use both manual
investigations and pointing during the 2-minute reading interaction (r = .39, p = .09). In general,
children were more active with the photographs than the books, using both manual investigations
and pointing (M = 9.08) more frequently with photographs than books (M = 3.69). This trend was
the same for manual investigations with photos and books (M = 4.31 and 1.46, respectively) and
pointing with photographs and books (M = 4.77 and 2.23, respectively). Thus, toddlers were more
likely to interact with realistic photographs compared with the pictures displayed in the picture
books, particularly in their use of manual investigations.


Home Literacy Environment and Toddlers' Behaviors
We hypothesized that differences in toddlers' use of manual investigations and pointing might be
related to children's home literacy environments. We calculated a total score (range = 0-12) for
each family by adding the numerical scores from the four relevant questions from the reading
survey. Approximately half of the parents (n = 6) reported high levels of home literacy activity
(total scores of 10, 11, or 12); the other parents (n = 7) reported somewhat lower levels of home
literacy activities (total scores of less than 10). Initially, we examined toddlers' overall behaviors
(i.e., a total frequency of manual investigations and pointing behaviors) during the pretest and
during the reading interaction separately. Albeit nonsignificant, children in families that reported
less literacy activity used manual investigations and pointing more frequently compared with
children in families that reported more literacy activity for both the photographs during the pretest
(M = 8.43 and 3.00, respectively) and during the reading interaction (M = 4.57 and 2.67,
respectively).

However, it was noted that two of the questions examined from the survey focused on parental
behaviors (How often do you read with your child? How many minutes did you read yesterday?),
and two of the questions focused on children's interest in books (How much does your child enjoy
reading? How often does your child look at books alone?). In general, there was more variability in
parental responses to children's interest in books compared with parental behaviors around literacy.
We then examined the total frequency behaviors (manual investigations and pointing combined)
with photographs (pretest) and during reading for these two groups of toddlers (i.e., high vs. low
interest in books). Toddlers whose parents reported that the children had lower levels of interest in
books tended to be more active with photos compared with toddlers whose parents reported that
they had higher levels of interest in books (M = 15.1 and 3.86, respectively). Although less marked,
the same pattern was found for toddlers in the lower interest group compared with the high interest
group during reading (M = 5.33 and 2.29, respectively). When manual investigations and pointing
with photos and books were examined for these two groups separately, toddlers whose parents
reported that they had less interest in books used manual investigations with photographs more
frequently compared with toddlers whose parents reported that they had more interest in books (M
= 7.83 and 1.29, respectively, F(1,12) = 4.67, p = .05).


                                            Discussion

Overall, toddlers around 15 months of age used both manual investigations and pointing when
interacting with photographs and picture books. Children of this age are in the process of learning
that pictures in books have meaning and that pictures can be labeled (Fletcher & Reese, 2005).
Moreover, researchers have demonstrated that 15-month-olds use similar rates of manual
investigations and pointing when looking at photographs (DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, Uttal,
Rosengren, & Gottlieb, 1998). In the current study, 15-month-olds were more likely to interact with
the photographs compared with pictures in books. This result is likely caused by the nature of the
pictures. Photographs are more realistic depictions of objects than typical drawings that are found in
most books. Consistent with this finding, 9-month-olds were also more likely to use manual
investigation with photographs compared with line drawings (Pierroutsakos & DeLoache, 2003).

In contrast to manual investigations, pointing to photographs decreased following the reading
interaction, indicating that the reading interaction may have highlighted for these young children
the function of "pictures as vehicles for conversation" (DeLoache & Burns, 1994, p. 106). Along with
this explanation, teachers pointed to pictures during the reading interactions—a method that may
also have served to highlight the function of pictures. Thus, when presented with photographs in a
context that did not involve conversation, toddlers were less likely to use pointing. On the other
hand, manual investigations of photographs did not decrease from pretest to posttest. Thus,
toddlers' decreased use of pointing likely occurred because the reading interaction made more
salient the function of pictures.

However, not all toddlers were active with photographs and pictures in books. It was believed that
these individual differences might be related to toddlers' home literacy environments (DeLoache &
Burns, 1994). One might expect that those toddlers from homes that reported higher levels of home
literacy-related activities would be more active with pictures in books than toddlers from homes that
reported lower levels of home literacy-related activities (although some activities were reported),
but in fact, there was no difference in the rate of manual investigation and pointing during the
reading interactions between toddlers in the two groups. However, toddlers whose parents reported
that they had a lower interest in literacy activities used significantly more manual investigations
with photographs compared with toddlers whose parents reported that they had higher levels of
interest in literacy activities. Thus, toddlers with lower levels of interest in literacy activities might
have less mature concepts of pictures compared with toddlers with higher levels of interest in
literacy activities.

One limitation of the current study was the use of parental reports about the home literacy
environment. Media attention devoted to the importance of reading to children has increased over
the past decade. As such, parents might tend to overestimate the frequency of reading to their
children. This tendency might explain positive results related to questions about children's interest
in literacy-related activities and not questions related to the frequency of parent's reading to
children. In the current study, parental responses to questions about children's interest in literacy
activities were correlated with parental responses about questions related to the frequency of
reading in the home (r = .73, p < .001). Therefore, it may be the case that those children with
higher reported levels of interest in literacy activities were also read to more frequently in their
homes than those children with lower levels of reported interest in literacy activities.

Despite this limitation, our results provide preliminary evidence for a relation between children's
literacy experiences and their behaviors with photographs. Although other researchers have
discussed the impact of reading to young children on language development (Fletcher & Reese,
2005), less attention has been devoted to the development of early literacy behaviors in toddlers.
Behaviors such as "looking at pictures" and "pointing to pictures" are often listed as early literacy
skills in children under age 3 (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Our results indicate that exposure to
books may highlight for toddlers the function and symbolic nature of pictures, and that, in some
cases, toddlers' interest in books may be related to how readily they demonstrate mature (pointing,
looking) or immature (hitting, grabbing) early literacy skills toward photographs.

One interesting implication of this research is to question the type of pictures presented in books for
young children. According to Fletcher and Reese (2005), there are three components in a shared
reading interaction—the parent, the child, and the book. Although less attention has been devoted
to the impact of books on reading quality (van Kleeck, 2003), researchers have demonstrated that
the type of book affects the quality of reading interactions with young children (Fletcher & Reese,
2005). Currently, many board books available for infants contain color photographs of real objects.
Yet this research suggests that these books may distract infants during picture book reading. Uttal
and his colleagues (Uttal et al., 1998; Uttal, Scudder, & DeLoache, 1997) have suggested that
colorful, realistic manipulatives (e.g., small objects for counting) used to teach mathematics might
actually hurt children's math performance because of their limited understanding of symbols. The
same reasoning may also apply to the use of realistic, color photographs in books for infants. On the
other hand, books with realistic, color photographs may engage very young children to explore
pictures and books more frequently than books with other types of artwork. In the current study,
toddlers used more manual investigations and pointing with photographs and fewer manual
investigations and less pointing with picture books. One direction for future research would be to
compare toddlers' behaviors with photographs and books that have photographs.


                                          Acknowledgments

We wish to thank the participants, teachers, and parents from the Infant Toddler Program at the Child Study
Center at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, and AppleTree Child Development Center YMCA, Muncie,
Indiana. We also extend a special thanks to Jennifer Young, assistant director of the Child Study Center at Ball
State University, and Diana Badger, executive director, AppleTree Child Development Center YMCA, for their
support of this research project. This research was also funded with a New Faculty Internal Grant from Ball State
University.


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     Narrating and Reading Folktales and Picture Books:
   Storytelling Techniques and Approaches with Preschool
                          Children
                             Triantafillia Natsiopoulou
                  Technological Educational Institution of Thessaloniki

                            Mimis Souliotis & Argyris G. Kyridis
                              University of Western Macedonia

                                                   Abstract

This article examines the approaches to storytelling used by Greek parents with their preschool children. The first
part of the article discusses the types of stories chosen and the reading approaches employed by the parents.
The second part examines the extratextual interactions between parents and children related to content during
storytelling. One hundred twelve stories were chosen by parents and told to their preschool children in one-to-
one settings in their homes. These sessions were recorded by students and later analyzed. The families chose the
stories, and no recommendation was made to parents about the type of story or approach they would use to tell
the story. The stories were classified as narration, which involved telling stories to children without using books,
or story reading, which involved reading books. Results indicate that the way in which a story was told and the
characteristics of the extratextual interactions between parents and children depended on a parent’s educational
status. Almost all parents with a higher educational background employed story reading, whereas parents with a
lower educational background mostly preferred narration. The quantity and quality of verbal exchanges between
adults and children during storytelling were also affected by the approach used and the educational status of the
parents. Reading stories motivated more verbal exchanges than narrating stories. Extratextual interactions
during storytelling were more common among parents with a higher educational background than among parents
with a lower educational background; however, of the total number of extratextual interactions, only a small
percentage were categorized as high-level abstraction (bridging, elaboration, and predicting). Most extratextual
interactions were described as low-level abstraction (children's feedback, asking for label, intervention for
drawing attention, and clarifying), regardless of the approach employed by the parents or their educational
status. Results suggest that for the Greek families involved in this research, storytelling is a child-centered
activity that meets the entertainment needs of the child.


                                               Introduction

Early research found a positive relationship between storytelling to preschool children and their
future linguistic and academic development (Chomsky, 1972; Durkin, 1966). This finding generated
a series of studies that investigated the characteristics of storytelling by parents to children and the
contribution of storytelling to children's literacy development.

Storytelling to children is a social practice that is common in Western societies but forbidden in
many other cultures because in these cultures stories are considered to be lies (Heath, 1982).
Observation of various Western educational and economic strata indicates significant differences
with regard to the frequency and quality (type, content, purpose) of children's experiences with
stories. Adams (1996) estimated children's experience with picture books at the beginning of school
life at 1000 to 1700 hours for average middle-class children and just 25 hours for lower-class
children.

Other researchers found that the frequency of storytelling by parents to children during the
preschool years was positively associated with children's language development and school progress
(Burgess, Hecht, & Lonigan, 2002; Campbell, 2001; Payne, Whitehurst, & Angell, 1994; McCormick
& Mason, 1994; Crain-Thoreson & Dale, 1992; Wells, 1986). In addition, research suggests that the
contribution of storytelling to a child's literacy development is dependent on the quantity and quality
of language interaction between adults and children during storytelling. This view is supported both
by theory and research.

According to Vygotsky (1978), children acquire intellectual and linguistic skills through social
interaction. In Western societies, reading to children has been a typical form of social interaction
between adults and children. During the process of reading stories, parents do not simply read but
often describe pictures, name objects, explain facts, ask children questions, and associate stories
with children's experiences (Kaderavek & Sulzby, 1998). Thus, they create a context that enhances
children's development and promotes linguistic and intellectual development, beyond what children
can achieve by themselves. On the other hand, some studies have suggested that a child's active
involvement in reading stories (before, after, and during reading) is instrumental in first-language
learning and makes children familiar with decontextualized language (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998;
Dickinson & Smith, 1994), which is essential to literacy.

Research that examined parents' comments and questions while reading has demonstrated great
variation, even among parents of the same social status, both in the number of extratextual
statements used by parents and in the level of abstraction of the specific sentences (Stadler &
McEvoy, 2003; Hammett, van Kleeck, & Huberty, 2003; DeBaryshe, 1995). Hammett, van Kleeck,
and Huberty (2003), in their study involving middle- to upper-class parents, concluded that during
reading stories the majority of parents employed a few extratextual sentences. The specific
sentences were relevant to the content of the story and were both of low-level abstraction (i.e.,
naming objects, highlighting objects or heroes in the story) and high-level abstraction (i.e., recalling
information, predicting).

Neuman (1996) suggested that the abstraction level of the extratextual interaction occurring during
reading stories was related to the parents' reading skills. Language interaction between children and
parents with low reading skills was more frequent in terms of the categories that were characterized
as low-level abstraction (i.e., reading simultaneously, phrase repetition), whereas language
interaction between children and parents with higher reading skills was more frequent in terms of
the categories that were characterized as high-level abstraction (i.e., relating the story to a child’s
daily life, recalling information). DeBaryshe (1995) noted that there was significant variation among
the mothers participating in her research in terms of the extent of their children's involvement in
discussion during reading. The participants tended to avoid specific techniques that were considered
to be high-level abstraction (i.e., they asked few questions to which the answers required high-level
abstraction).

Many researchers have studied the strategies that parents employ in order to accommodate reading
to children's intellectual and linguistic levels (Wolf, 1991; Phillips & McNaughton, 1990; Bus & van
Ijzendoorn, 1988; DeLoache & DeMendoza, 1987). Wolf (1991) studied the way her own daughter
had been reacting to literature and concluded that a mother's questions during reading were
modified according to a child's age and the child’s familiarity with stories; thus, early questions such
as "What's this?" were later replaced by questions such as “What do you think about…?" or "What
would you do…?"

Phillips and McNaughton (1990) investigated the behavior of parents of higher social status and
maintained that during story reading parents employed scaffolding. First, they made extratextual
comments with a view to helping children get the gist of the story, and subsequently they motivated
children to participate in the story by making their own comments. Linguistic interaction between
adults and children also seems to be affected by the type of texts (Stadler & McEvoy, 2003;
Neuman, 1996; Pellegrini, Perlmutter, Galda, & Brody, 1990). Stadler and McEvoy (2003)
suggested that storybooks generated parents' comments that were relevant mostly to the content
of the story (i.e., discussion of the story pictures, characters, facts, comments about children's
experiences related to specific facts in the story). In contrast, alphabet books generated comments
mostly about phonology (i.e., pronunciation of individual letters and syllables).

Variation among adults was also observed with regard to reading styles (Haden, Reese, & Fivush,
1996; Dickinson & Smith, 1994). Haden, Reese, and Fivush (1996) described three reading styles in
terms of the content of extratextual sentences (describing, predicting, informing, confirming,
letters) that mothers employed during story reading. The first style emphasized descriptions. The
mothers who employed this style used many describers. The second style, which highlighted
comprehension, involved many comments predicting the development of plot and provided
information on comprehenders. By employing the third style, which emphasized children's
involvement in reading, mothers motivated children to make comments about the story and used
collaborators.

The present study investigated the techniques that Greek families employed during storytelling to
their preschool children. The first part discusses the story types chosen and storytelling techniques
employed by Greek families with their preschool children, and the second part examines the
extratextual interactions between parents and children during storytelling.


                Part I: Story Types and Storytelling Techniques

Sample
The sample consisted of 112 families whose children went to five different nursery schools in
Thessaloniki in which students of the Higher Technological Educational Institution of Thessaloniki do
their training. First, the students met the children’s parents. During these discussions, the students
asked the parents whether they told their children stories. All 150 participants answered positively.
Next, the students asked permission to record one of the stories that they usually told their
children. Of the 150 parents, 112 agreed to participate. A time and date were arranged when
students would visit the children’s home to tape the storytelling. Before that day, the students
visited the children at home twice in order to create a friendly atmosphere around the students,
children, and parents. The number of recorded stories was 112; the choice of stories was
exclusively made by the participants. The books used for the study belonged to the families, and no
recommendation was made to parents about the type of story or approach they would use to tell a
story. On the contrary, on the day when the recording was arranged, the parents were asked to
read the story in their typical way. After the storytelling, the students made notes about the
educational level of the adults, their relationship to the children, the children's ages, and, if a book
was read, the basic details about the book (title, author, and edition). The duration of the
storytelling was from 5 to 15 minutes. The duration was associated more with the quantity of the
extratextual interactions between the parent and the child and less with the length of the text.
According to the parents, the stories were familiar to the children, and they had been told by the
parents many times. Of the adults, 12.5% had not graduated from senior high school, 61.6% were
senior high school graduates, and 25.9% had a higher education degree. The stories were told to
children ages 2 to 6 years.


Data Analysis
All the stories were recorded and included extratextual interactions by both adults and children
before, after, and during storytelling. Subsequently, the stories were classified as narration or story
reading, depending on the approach the parents employed. Narration involved telling stories to
children without using books; story reading involved reading books, irrespective of the adult's
extratextual interaction during reading. The statistical data analysis was performed using SPSS and
involved descriptive statistics, frequency statistics, and cross-tabulation statistics with statistical
indicators (chi-square, degrees of freedom, significance value). Level of significance was p < 0.05.


Results
Of the 112 stories, 51 (45.5%) were folktales, 49 (43.7%) short stories, 6 Aesop's tales, 3
Andersen's tales, and 3 improvised stories. Thirty of the stories were narrated, and 82 were read.
Narration was basically used for folktales (22 of the 30 stories were folktales), whereas story
reading was based on illustrated storybooks (of these, 29 were illustrated folktales). Five folktales
were the most popular:

    1.   Little Red Riding Hood: 9 stories narrated and 6 read
    2.   The Three Little Pigs: 4 narrated and 5 read
    3.   The Wolf and the Seven Kids: 5 narrated and 3 read
    4.   Hansel and Gretel: 1 narrated and 3 read
    5.   Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: 1 narrated and 2 read
The way the story was told depended on the storyteller's educational background (Table 1). Almost
all participants with a higher educational background employed story reading, whereas participants
with a lower educational background mostly preferred narration. For 110 out of 112 stories, there
was extratextual interaction both by adults and children. There was great variation in the number of
extratextual interactions, even for the same story. For example, during one telling of "Little Red
Riding Hood," there was one extratextual interaction initiated by the adult and one by the child. On
another occasion for the same tale, there were 8 extratextual interactions initiated by the adult and
20 by the child. During one telling of "The Three Little Pigs," there was one extratextual interaction
by the adult and one by the child. The same tale received 24 extratextual interactions by an adult
and 12 by a child during another telling.


                             Table 1
          Number and Percentage of Narrators and Readers in
                    Terms of Educational Level*
                                                               Education
                                   Senior High School               Higher             Total
                  Adults             No.         %         No.               %   No.           %
          Narrators                   27         32.5          3         10.3    30            26.8
          Readers                     56         67.5          26        89.7    82            73.2
          Total                       83         100           29        100     112           100

           *Pearson chi-square: value 5.394, df 1; p < 0.05.
Overall, two trends were observed during storytelling:


       The story was told without interruptions; thus, adults tended to avoid asking questions, did
        not strike up conversations with the child, and, when there were questions, tended to give
        short answers and continued with the story. This pattern was observed particularly during
        narration.
       Children tended to be involved in the story, either impromptu—with questions, comments,
        or by adding up story segments—or by being challenged by adults—through questions,
        drawing children's attention to pictures, urging them to recall personal experiences or
        information, asking them to justify the characters' actions, etc.

In order to investigate the type of extratextual interactions occurring during storytelling, 88 stories
were picked and analyzed in terms of the extratextual interactions involved.


            Part II: Extratextual Interactions during Storytelling

Sample
In order to have as homogeneous a sample as possible, the stories that were analyzed were chosen
according to the type of material (literary or general knowledge book) and the discourse type
(fiction or poetry). Excluded were 11 informational stories, 2 stories in which no interaction took
place, 5 stories in verse, and 6 picture books with very little text. Thus, the sample comprised 88
entertaining literary texts. Of these, 58 were folktales, 21 of which were narrated and 34 read; 3
were improvised stories, which were narrated; 6 were Aesop's tales, which were read; and 24 short
stories, which were read.


Coding Extratextual Interaction
The extratextual interactions involved in the stories were coded on the basis of content and were
examined separately for parents and children. The specific coding procedure was based on other
research on storytelling that examined adult and children's extratextual interaction (Hammett, van
Kleeck, & Huberty, 2003; Neuman, 1996; Yaden, Smolkin, & Conlon, 1989). The specific procedure
involved the following extratextual interaction categories:
    1.  Attention. Extratextual interaction with a view to drawing children's attention (by calling the
        children's names: "Can you hear, Irene?" or by drawing their attention to illustrations: "Can
        you see the dog?")
    2. Names. Extratextual interaction with a view to making children familiar with the names of
        objects, incidents, characters, and setting ("This is a lion.")
    3. Asking about names. Questions about the names of objects, incidents, characters, etc., of
        the story ("What is she wearing on her head?" "Where is the lion caged?")
    4. Feedback. Extratextual interaction that aims at praising, confirming, or correcting children's
        extratextual interaction ("Yes, Snow White was pretty." "No, he was not dropping pebbles;
        he was dropping crumbs.")
    5. Repetition. Verbatim repetition of children's words or phrases (child: "a dog"; parent: "a
        dog")
    6. Elaboration. Extratextual interaction through which a child's words or phrases are
        elaborated by adding extra information (child: "a bee"; parent: "a flying bee")
    7. Organizing the activity. Extratextual interaction through which children are kept intrigued
        by the story ("I'm going ahead.")
    8. Prediction. Questions asked to a child with a view to giving information about facts and
        incidents in the story that have not yet been told ("What did the animals do next?")
    9. Relating the story to real life. Commentary and questions to children with a view to relating
        the plot of the story to everyday experiences and informing them about facts and objects in
        the story ("What color is your own toothbrush?" "We drive a car; they used to drive a cart."
    10. Recalling information. Questions to children in order to make them recall incidents and
        details in the story.
    11. Clarifying. Extratextual interaction with a view to motivating picture description, word
        explanation, and interpretation of characters' attitudes.
    12. Asking for clarification. Questions that motivate children to describe or interpret the
        characters' attitudes in the story ("Why do you think they were happy?")

With regard to children's extratextual interaction, coding involved the following 9 of the 12
categories made by adults:

    1.   Names. Children name objects, incidents, characters ("a dog").
    2.   Questions about names. Children ask about names of objects, incidents, and characters
         ("What's this?").
    3.   Repetition. Children repeat the exact words or phrases that the narrator/reader had used.
    4.   Relating the story to real life. Children relate incidents in the story to their own personal
         experiences ("I'll take out the thorn for you." "I want a watch like this for me, too.").
    5.   Recalling information. Children point out details in the story and give information (Parent:
         "What does a matchmaker do?" Child: "She finds grooms.")
    6.   Prediction. Children predict the development of the plot ("Now the wolf is going to come
         in.").
    7.   Clarifying. Children describe pictures and explain attitudes ("Here is the little pig going to
         his little brother.").
    8.   Questions for clarification. Children ask for explanations about incidents and attitudes
         ("What is little John doing?" "How did he go?").
    9.   Parallel reading. The category involves only children's extratextual interaction and
         “reading”/“narrating” words or phrases in the story, while parents are reading/narrating
         (Parent: "and Little Red Riding Hood set off…" Child: "…to go to her grandmother's.").

With regard to the reliability of coding interventions, the authors first categorized the extratextual
interactions of five stories. Then they discussed the categories with three colleagues who had read
the stories; no different opinions were expressed. The statistical analysis of the extratextual
interactions was performed with SPSS and involved descriptive statistics, frequency statistics, and
mean comparisons (independent samples t-test). Minimum level of significance was p < 0.05.


                                               Results

The comparison of children's and adults' extratextual interactions—separately for narration and
story reading—demonstrated that, with regard to narration, adults' extratextual interactions were
less frequent than those of children. With regard to story reading, the number of adults'
extratextual interactions was greater than the number of children's extratextual interactions (Tables
2 & 3).


                                  Table 2
               Number and Percentage of Adults' Extratextual
                  Interactions in Terms of Approach and
                      Narrators'/Readers' Education
                                              Approach                                     Education
                                                                                 Senior High         Higher
                                    Narration                Reading               School           Education
            Extratextual
            Interaction             No.         %           No.        %         No.       %        No.   %
          Attention                  8          4.2         164        13.1      102       12.5     70    11.1
          Names                      3          1.5         80         6.4       62        7.7      21    3.4
          Feedback                  71          37          215        17.2      179       21.9     107   17.0
          Repetition                29        15.2          64         5.1       69        8.5      24    3.8
          Elaboration                7          3.4         68         5.4       25        3.0      50    7.9
          Organizing                11          5.8         79         6.3       51        6.3      39    6.2
          Prediction                 6          3.2         17         1.3        2        0.2      21    3.4
          Relation to real life     11          5.7         85         6.8       39        4.7      57    9.0
          Recalling                  9          4.7         40         3.2       23        2.8      26    4.2
          Clarification              5          2.6         193        15.4      125       15.4     73    11.7
          Questions/name            26        13.6          185        14.8      110       13.5     101   16.0
          Questions/clarification    2          1.0         37         2.9       16        1.9      23    3.7
          Miscellaneous              4          2.1         25         2.1       13        1.6      16    2.6
          Total                     192        100        1252         100       816       100      628   100

                                Table 3
            Number and Percentage of Children's Extratextual
            Interactions in Terms of Approach and Children's
                                  Age
                                                     Approach                                     Age
                                          Narration               Reading         2-3 years old 4-6 years old
                  Extratextual
                  Interaction             No.         %          No.         %     No.       %      No.    %
          Names                           59         26.8     255        28.6     162      41.1     152   21.2
          Joint reading                   45         20.5         62     7.0          24    6.0      83   11.6
          Relation to real life           18          8.2         72     8.0          26    6.6      64   8.9
          Prediction                      18          8.2         65     7.3          28    7.1      55   7.7
          Repetition                      22         10.0         81     9.1          55   13.9      48   6.7
          Recalling                       7           3.2         26     2.9          6     1.5      27   3.8
          Clarification                   17          7.7         62     7.0          11    2.8      68   9.5
          Questions/name                  4           1.8         88     9.9          24    6.0      68   9.5
          Questions/clarification     14        6.4   126    14.2   33    8.8     107     15.0
          Miscellaneous               16        7.2   53     6.0    25    6.2     44      6.2
          Total                      220      100     890    100    394   100     716     100

Mean comparison per category of extratextual interaction indicates that the number of extratextual
interactions by adults was greater during story reading than narration, with regard to the following
categories: names (t = -4.56, p < 0.05); questions about names (t = -2.26, p < 0.05); questions
for clarification (t = -2.34, p < 0.05); relating stories to real life (t = -2.22, p < 0.05); sentence
elaboration (t = -2.85, p < 0.05); drawing children's attention (t = -5.44, p < 0.05); and organizing
the activity (t = -3.09, p < 0.05) (Table 4).


                                 Table 4
              Means and Standard Variation of Children’s and
               Adults' Extratextual Interactions in Terms of
                                 Approach
                                              Narration                     Reading
                                             Means± SD                    Means± SD
          Children’s Extratextual Interaction
          Names                              2.458 ± 4.690                3.984 ± 5.156
          Joint reading                      1.875 ± 3.026                0.968 ± 1.952
          Relation to real life              0.750 ± 0.989                1.125 ± 1.864
          Prediction                         0.750 ± 1.567                1.015 ± 1.964
          Repetition                         0.916 ± 1.442                1.265 ± 2.318
          Recalling                          0.291 ± 1.083                0.406 ± 1.244
          Clarification                      0.708 ± 1.197                0.968 ± 1.532
          Questions/name*                    0.166 ± 0.482                1.375 ± 2.278
          Questions/clarification*           0.583 ± 0.974                1.968 ± 3.157
          Adults' Extratextual Interaction
          Attention*                         0.333 ± 1.090                2.562 ± 2.754
          Names*                             0.125 ± 0.338                1.250 ± 1.894
          Feedback                           2.958 ± 3.701                3.359 ± 3.666
          Repetition                         1.208 ± 1.668                1.000 ± 1.623
          Elaboration*                       0.291 ± 0.751                1.062 ± 1.781
          Organizing*                        0.458 ± 0.833                1.234 ± 1.477
          Prediction                         0.250 ± 0.897                0.265 ± 1.116
          Relation to real life*             0.458 ± 0.833                1.328 ± 2.829
          Recalling                          0.375 ± 1.345                0.625 ± 1.676
          Clarification*                     0.208 ± 0.415                3.015 ± 3.094
          Questions/name*                    1.083 ± 2.717                2.890 ± 4.623
          Questions/clarification*           0.083 ± 0.408                0.578 ± 1.551

           *p < 0.05.
The number of children's extratextual interactions was greater during story reading with regard to
the following categories: questions about names (t = -4.01, p < 0.05) and questions for clarification
(t = -3.14, p < 0.05).

Mean comparison per extratextual interaction category for adults of various educational levels
demonstrated that the number of extratextual interactions among adults with higher education was
greater than that of adults with less education with regard to the following categories: relating
stories to real life (t = -2.63, p < 0.05); prediction (t = -2.20, p < 0.05); sentence elaboration (t =
-3.31, p < 0.05); drawing children's attention (t = -2.16, p < 0.05); and organizing the activity (t =
-2.60, p < 0.05) (Table 5).


                                  Table 5
                 Means and Standard Variation of Adults'
              Extratextual Interactions in Terms of Education
                                                Senior High School      Higher Education
                Extratextual Interaction            Means± SD              Means± SD
          Attention*                               1.593± 2.408            2.916± 2.918
          Names                                    0.968± 1.902            0.875± 0.992
          Feedback                                 2.796± 3.551            4.458± 3.741
          Repetition                               1.078± 1.556            1.000± 1.842
          Elaboration*                             0.390± 0.726            2.083± 2.466
          Organizing*                              0.796± 1.250            1.625± 1.527
          Prediction*                              0.031± 0.250            0.875± 1.872
          Relation to real life*                   0.609± 2.060            2.375± 3.033
          Recalling                                0.359± 1.187            1.083± 2.302
          Clarification                            1.953± 2.930            3.041± 2.820
          Questions/name*                          1.718± 3.614            4.208± 5.283
          Questions/clarification                  0.250± 0.617            0.958± 2.349

           *p < 0.05.
Mean comparison per extratextual interaction category among younger and older children
demonstrated that children up to 3 years old made more extratextual comments than older children
with regard to names (t = 2.032, p < 0.05). Older children made more extratextual comments than
younger ones for the category questions for clarification (t = -3.198, p < 0.05), whereas adults
made more extratextual comments when they read/narrated to older children for the category
clarification (t = -2.385, p < 0.05).


                                           Discussion

In Western societies, narration and reading are two approaches through which young children with
the help of adults become familiar with their heritage and learn their native language (Teale, 1984).
Despite some similarities, the two approaches differ in significant ways:


       Material origin. Reading is based only on written texts, whereas narration exploits sources
        from both oral texts and anonymous writing.
       Memory. Although essential to the narrator, who must have a priori knowledge of the story,
        memory is insignificant for the reader.
       Visual contact with the audience. Although constant for the narrator, visual contact is
        limited for the reader because there is always a book between a reader and his or her
        audience.
       Story dramatization. For narrators, story dramatization is easier than for readers because
        narrators tell the story as a personal experience with their own judgment and
        interpretation, whereas readers are committed to the written text (Giannikopoulou, 1996).

In Greece, both approaches are employed for storytelling to preschool children. Narration is mostly
used by adults at a lower educational level for folktales, perhaps because folklore is still vivid among
people of a lower social status (Natsiopoulou, 2002). In contrast, reading stories is preferred by
adults at a higher educational level, possibly because of their familiarity with children's books
(Natsiopoulou, 2002), including folktales.

Both during narration and reading, there are verbal exchanges between adults and children, which
in the present study were made exclusively about the content of the story. Extratextual interaction
about writing styles (i.e., naming letters, highlighting words or sentences) was not observed. Adults'
focus on the content of the story has been observed in other studies as well (Hammett, van Kleeck,
& Huberty, 2003; Neuman, 1996; Morrow & Smith, 1990). In the present study, extratextual
interaction about writing styles did not occur because the texts used did not invite that kind of
extratextual interaction; it has often been noted that adults' extratextual interaction about writing is
observed when they read alphabet books (Stadler & McEvoy, 2003; van Kleeck, 1998). van Kleeck
(1998) maintains that when parents read to preschool children, first they emphasize the story,
irrespective of its type (simple story, poetry, story with emphasis on the alphabet). They
subsequently, in the case of storybooks, emphasize the plot; in the case of alphabet books, they
make comments about the alphabet, morphemes at the beginning of words, etc. It is worth noting
that alphabet books are common in Greece but were not chosen by participants in the present
study. A possible explanation is that parents who had been asked to tell their children stories made
their choice only among simple stories with pleasant plots and action in order to be able to motivate
discussion about story content (Stadler & McEvoy, 2003).

The quantity and quality of verbal exchanges between adults and children during storytelling were
affected by the approach employed (narration vs. reading) and the educational level of the adults. It
was initially observed that reading stories resulted in more verbal exchanges between adults and
children than narrating stories. The comparison of means indicated that during reading, adults'
extratextual interaction was more frequent than during narration in terms of both high-level
abstraction (i.e., relation of the story to real life, elaborated sentences) and low-level abstraction
and concrete thought (i.e., inducing children to focus on pictures, names of objects, and incidents).
In the present study, the narration approach was chosen principally by parents with less education.
Torr (2004) found that parents who left school at an early age read stories quietly to children and
interacted occasionally with them. In the present study, the small number of extratextual
interactions during narration could be partly attributed to the adults’ storytelling technique.

Verbal interaction between adults and children appears to be frequent during reading when
children's interaction is motivated by pictures in a storybook. Yaden, Smolkin, and Conlon (1989)
maintained that 50%-60% of the questions asked by preschool children during storytelling at home
involved characters and incidents in illustrations. In the present study, it was discovered that during
reading, children's extratextual interaction was considerably more frequent than during narration
with regard to the categories questions about names of objects and incidents and questions for
clarification about pictures and attitudes. Thus, there was a greater number of adults' extratextual
interactions during reading for the categories names (t = -4.56, p < 0.05) and clarification (t = -
7.09, p < 0.05); there was a positive correlation between children's questions about names and
adults' extratextual interaction for the category names (r = 0.736, p < 0.01) and children’s
questions about clarification and adults extratextual interaction for the category clarification (r =
0.505, p < 0.01). The specific correlation between extratextual interaction categories that are
considered to be low-level abstraction by researchers demonstrates that during reading, illustrations
enhance verbal interaction between adults and children, principally in terms of the verbal exchanges
requiring concrete thought.

The educational level of the narrator or reader was discovered to be related to adults' extratextual
interaction, both in terms of high- and low-level abstraction. The narrators or readers of a higher
educational level made more high-level abstraction extratextual comments than narrators or
readers of a lower educational level. In addition, narrators or readers of a higher educational level
challenged children to be involved in the narration or reading more than narrators or readers of a
lower educational level. Thus, they made more prompts and asked more questions about specific
and easily perceived objects to make children be involved in the narration or reading—for example,
examining pictures or naming objects that they had already named before, as indicated in the
following extract read from the folktale "The Wolf and the Seven Kids":

Once upon a time, a wolf, whose name was Greedy, wanted to devour the seven kids, who lived
with their mother in a cottage in the woods.

Mother (looking at the picture): Can you see the wolf?
Child: Yes.

Then one day there was the right moment! Mother Goat was going out shopping.

Mother: Where is Mother Goat? Where is she going?
Child: Shopping.

Sometimes adults and children were engaged in a more essential conversation that contributed to
(1) justifying attitudes, (2) providing information, (3) relating the story to the children’s daily lives.

Justifying Attitudes (narrated extract from the folktale “The Wolf and the Seven Kids”)

        ...the kid is running, getting a pair of scissors, and also the big needle and thread.

Child: The kid went and fetched them before you can say Jack Robinson.
Narrator: Well done, Elias! Just before you can say Jack Robinson! The kid ran so fast so that they
could do their job, before the wolf wakes up.

Providing Information (narrated extract from the folktale "The Three Little Pigs")

...one of the little pigs built a house of wood.

Child: Where did he find the wood?
Narrator: He found it in the woods.
Child: What about the logs?
Narrator: He cut down trees in the woods.
Child: With the machine?
Narrator: Yes, with the machine.

Another little pig built a house of reeds.

Narrator: Do you know where he found the reeds?
Child: Where?
Narrator: In the lake.
Child: Are there any reeds in the lake?
Narrator: Yes, there are reeds in the lake.

Relating the Story to the Children's Daily Lives (extract read from the story "Mister Smart")

...and apart from everything else it also showed the time, the weather, and could sing happily.

Child: I would like to have an alarm clock like that, but it's impossible.
Narrator: Why is it impossible?
Child: It is, because I haven't got one, because I live in Hortiatis.
Narrator: Why do you live in Hortiatis and not in Smartville?
Research has suggested that the use of abstract concepts during reading promotes a child's
linguistic development (Leseman & de Jong, 1998); therefore, many parent training programs teach
reading approaches that combine frequent verbal exchanges between adults and children on the
basis of questions such as "why" and "how" in addition to elaboration of children's phrases and
other high-level abstraction extratextual interaction (Arnold, Lonigan, Whitehurst, & Epstein, 1994).

In the present study, we found that such extratextual interactions during storytelling to children
were more common among parents with a higher education; however, of the total number of
extratextual interactions, only a small percentage could be categorized as high-level abstraction
(Table 2). Categories that were described as low-level abstraction and concrete thought (feedback
to children, questions about names, drawing children's attention, clarification) constituted the
highest percentage of adults' extratextual interaction, regardless of the approach employed by the
adults and their educational background.

These results suggest that Greek families treat narration and story reading to children as a child-
centered activity, principally aimed at entertaining children. Specifically, the study suggests that the
fundamental purpose of using children's books with preschool children is to challenge them
aesthetically (Glazer, 1991; Rosenblatt, 1991), thus contributing to their love of reading. Whether
the storytelling by Greek parents observed in this study contributed to their children’s literacy
development is difficult to determine, given that the majority of verbal exchanges between adults
and children during story narrating and reading was of low-level abstraction and involved items that
are used for communication between adults and children on other occasions besides storytelling.


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                                          Author Information

Triantafillia Natsiopoulou is assistant professor at the Higher Technological Educational Institution of Thessaloniki,
Department of Baby/Infant Care, Greece, where she teaches children’s literature. She has published papers in
Greek and European scholarly journals.


                                         Dr. Triantafillia Natsiopoulou
                                Technological Educational Institution of Thessaloniki
                                                   P.O. Box 141
                                                      57400
                                                      Greece
                                             Telephone: 2310791529
                                           Email: tnatsiop@bc.teithe.gr




Mimis Souliotis is associate professor at the University of Western Macedonia, Faculty of Education, Greece,
where he teaches literature and children’s literature. He has published literary books and poetry collections. His
poems have been translated in four languages.


                                              Dr. Mimis Souliotis
                                         University of Western Macedonia
                                         Department of Nursery Education
                                                   Florina 53100
                                                       Greece
                                             Telephone: 2310991036
                                            Email: dsouliot@uowm.gr




Argyris Kyridis is an associate professor at the University of Western Macedonia, Greece, where he teaches
sociology, sociology of education, sociology of knowledge, sociology of media and new technology, educational
policy, and research methodologies. He has published numerous papers in Greek and European scholarly
journals. He is the author or coauthor of about 15 books in Greek.


                                           Dr. Argyris G. Kyridis
                                      University of Western Macedonia
                                      Department of Nursery Education
                                                    Florina
                                                    53100
                                                   Greece
                                          Telephone: 2310991085
                                          Email: akiridis@uowm.gr


                                               Appendix

                                          Texts Employed

Narration

        Little Red Riding Hood: 9 instances
        The Wolf and the Seven Kids: 5 instances
        The Three Little Pigs: 4 instances
        Hansel and Gretel: 1 instance
        Sleeping Beauty: 1 instance
        Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: 1 instance
        Improvisations: 3 instances

Readings

        Little Red Riding Hood: 6 instances
        The Wolf and the Seven Kids: 3 instances
        The Three Little Pigs: 5 instances
        Hansel and Gretel: 3 instances
        Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: 2 instances
        Cinderella: 2 instances
        Beauty and the Beast: 2 instances
        The Tin Soldier: 3 instances
        Sleeping Beauty
        Rapunzel
        Mrs. Kind
        The Magic Flute
        Puss in Boots
        Pinocchio
        Rosy and Snowy
        The Nutcracker
        6 Aesop's tales
        24 short stories

								
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