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Shared storybook reading with children at family risk of dyslexia

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Research in Reading
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Aug 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 14 Sep 2021
Early online date14/09/21
Original languageEnglish


Background: Shared storybook reading is an important context for language learning and often constitutes young children's first encounter with the printed word. The quality of early shared reading interactions is a known predictor of language and reading development, but few studies have examined these interactions in children at family risk of dyslexia. Methods: This exploratory study describes the quality of shared storybook reading between mothers and their 3- to 4-year-old children at family risk of dyslexia (FR; n = 18) in comparison with dyads with no known risk (no-FR; n = 13). Mother–child interactions while sharing a familiar and an unfamiliar storybook were coded for type of extra-textual talk (meaning-related talk at the concrete and abstract levels; print-related talk) and affective quality. Maternal and child language and literacy skills were considered as potential correlates of shared reading quality. Results: The linguistic and affective quality of shared reading was broadly comparable across FR and no-FR dyads, particularly when sharing a book they knew well, with large within-group variation. Mothers contributed more concrete meaning-related talk when introducing an unfamiliar book to their children; children contributed more extra-textual talk overall when sharing a familiar book. Maternal language, but not reading, skills were related to the linguistic quality of shared reading. The affective quality of reading interactions was rated more highly in dyads where mothers and children had stronger language skills. Conclusions: These results suggest that the quality of shared reading does not vary systematically as a function of children's risk of dyslexia but is related to maternal language skills. This finding needs to be replicated in a larger sample in order to better understand the risk and protective factors associated with dyslexia. Highlights: What is already known about this topic The quality of extra-textual talk during shared reading between parents and preschoolers predicts later language and literacy outcomes in typically developing children. The affective quality of early shared reading predicts children's motivation to read independently in later childhood. Children at family risk of dyslexia are more likely than their peers with no family risk to have difficulty learning to read and may show weaknesses in oral language skills. What this paper adds. The linguistic and affective quality of shared reading between mothers and preschool children is broadly similar when children are at family risk of dyslexia compared with no family risk. The type and quantity of extra-textual talk contributed by mothers and children appears to differ according to the familiarity of the storybook, but replication of the findings in a larger sample is required. The linguistic and affective quality of shared reading is related to maternal language skills. Implications for theory, policy or practice. Shared storybook reading offers rich language learning opportunities for children at family risk of dyslexia. Maternal language skills may be an important determinant of the interactional quality of shared reading. The linguistic and affective quality of shared reading is not clearly associated with maternal reading difficulties.

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by Wellcome Trust Grant R10611.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Research in Reading published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.

    Research areas

  • bioecological model, family risk of dyslexia, home literacy environment, parent–child interaction, shared reading

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