Language skills are strong predictors of academic, social-emotional, and behavioral outcomes when children enter school. They learn language in the preschool years by interacting with others, especially their parents. Book sharing is a popular way parents engage young children in conversation. However, not all parents agree to share books and not all children like to read books to them.

A new study on “parental talk” by Florida Atlantic University, in collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark, provides an alternative. To increase the quality of a preschooler’s language experience and skills, consider reminiscing with them.

To determine the effects of encouraging parents to reminisce with their children, researchers examined the characteristics of conversations between Danish parents and their 3- to 5-year-old children while they engaged in three different activities. Parents and children were asked to share wordless picture books (booksharing), reminisce about past events, and build with LEGO bricks.

From the transcripts of parent-child conversations in these three activities, the researchers measured characteristics of parents’ speech that have been found to be related to children’s language development. They also measured how much the children talked, as children’s production has also been shown to be a positive predictor of their language development.

Results of the study, published in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, shows that reminiscing is very good at eliciting high-quality speech from parents, and in many ways, as good as book sharing. Book sharing and reminiscing was greater than toy play on three measures of interactive quality: less frequent use of directives, more frequent use of what/who/where questions, and more frequent use of why/how questions.

Just reminiscing, not book sharing, differs from toy play in parent talk in that the grammatical complexity is higher and children’s utterances are expanded more frequently. Both reminders and book sharing increased the literal quality of parent speech compared to toy play.

“The findings from our study should strengthen the arguments for recall as a basis for culturally sensitive interventions to enhance the quality of children’s language experiences,” said Erica Hoff, P.D. said HD, senior author and professor of psychology. FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “Talking in recall is characterized by longer and more complex sentences than talking in many other settings, and particularly detailed recall in which the adult encourages the child to speak, of the child’s language. benefits development. more widely than reading a book as a naturally occurring process across cultures and levels of socioeconomic status.”

Interestingly, the researchers found no difference between mothers and fathers. Until now, the literature on differences between fathers’ and mothers’ communication with their children has been sparse with mixed results and relies heavily on samples in the United States. A Danish sample provided an opportunity to study differences between mothers and fathers in a place where parental roles are less gendered than elsewhere.

While the findings provide new evidence that reminiscing is an activity that accelerates parents’ use of rich language, the researchers caution that it does not reduce differences in parents’ speech quality related to parents’ education levels. does. More educated parents labeled objects and events more often, their speech was more grammatically complex, and they repeated and extended their children’s previous words more often.

“Reminiscing is good, but it’s not a magic bullet that closes the social and educational gap. The driving force behind our research is to find ways to improve the language skills of children from more advantaged and less advantaged families. Close the experience gap.” Hoff said. “Of course, it is good to find activities that enrich all children’s language experiences, and all children will benefit from such experiences. However, such activities are not expected to eliminate all differences in children’s experience. could go.”

Although differences in language use associated with parental education have not been ruled out, an important finding from this study is that the greatest influence on the quality of parent-child communication is the activity in which parents and children engage. are

“I would advise parents that it’s not just about spending time with your kids. It’s also about what you’re doing when you’re spending time with them,” Hoff said. “It’s good to take some time to talk. If you like to read books, read books, if you want to talk about future plans or talk about the past, then do it. Take time to interact with children.”

Co-authors of the study are Fabio Trecca, Ph.D., senior researcher; Anders Hodgen, PhD, an associate professor; and Dorthe Belses, Ph.D., a professor, all with the School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University; and Brett Larson, Ph.D., professor of psychology, FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

This research was supported by Styrelsen for Uddannelse og Kvalitet (Danish National Agency for Education and Quality) and TrygFonden (grant 147476 to Belses).