Impact Factor

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 16 April 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00325

Storybooks aren't just for fun: narrative and non-narrative picture books foster equal amounts of generic language during mother-toddler book sharing

  • Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Parents and children encounter a variety of animals and objects in the early picture books they share, but little is known about how the context in which these entities are presented influences talk about them. The present study investigated how the presence or absence of a visual narrative context influences mothers' tendency to refer to animals as individual characters or as members of a kind when sharing picture books with their toddlers (mean age 21.3 months). Mother-child dyads shared both a narrative and a non-narrative book, each featuring six animals and matched in terms of length and quantity of text. Mothers made more specific (individual-referring) statements about animals in the narrative books, whereas they provided more labels for animals in the non-narrative books. But, of most interest, the frequency and proportion of mothers' use of generic (kind-referring) utterances did not differ across the two different types of books. Further coding of the content of the utterances revealed that mothers provided more story-specific descriptions of states and actions of the animals when sharing narrative books and more physical descriptions of animals when sharing non-narrative books. However, the two books did not differ in terms of their elicitation of natural facts about the animals. Overall, although the two types of books encouraged different types of talk from mothers, they stimulated generic language and talk about natural facts to an equal degree. Implications for learning from picture storybooks and book genre selection in classrooms and home reading are discussed.

Keywords: generic language, parent-child interactions, book sharing, narrative books, informational books, book genre, contextual influences

Citation: Nyhout A and O'Neill DK (2014) Storybooks aren't just for fun: narrative and non-narrative picture books foster equal amounts of generic language during mother-toddler book sharing. Front. Psychol. 5:325. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00325

Received: 25 November 2013; Accepted: 28 March 2014;
Published online: 16 April 2014.

Edited by:

Carmel Houston-Price, University of Reading, UK

Reviewed by:

Jeff Loucks, University of Regina, Canada
Susan Annetta Graham, University of Calgary, Canada

Copyright © 2014 Nyhout and O'Neill. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Angela Nyhout and Daniela K. O'Neill, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada e-mail: angelanyhout@gmail.com; doneill@uwaterloo.ca