• Amber Muhinyi

Student thesis: Phd


Shared reading is widely considered beneficial for children’s language development. A key finding of the shared-reading literature to date is that variation in the quality of caregiver-child interactions during shared reading, and in particular caregiver abstract talk, is linked to preschool-age children’s language and early literacy skills. The purpose of this thesis was to address gaps in our knowledge about the quality of storybook-reading interactions with preschool-age children, and the influence of these interactions on language development. Study 1 (N = 53) investigated the influence of child engagement and story genre on caregiver abstract talk during shared reading, while also considering the role of socioeconomic status and other factors. Story genre was an important factor in influencing abstract talk, and child engagement was also highlighted as a potentially important factor. In Study 2, a re-analysis of the data showed effects of story genre on broader aspects of the caregiver interaction. Given these robust genre effects, Study 3 (N = 34) tested whether exposure to two story genres and their associated levels of abstract talk leads to differential gains in children’s language skills. There were no effects of story condition on the post-test measures, but exploratory post hoc analyses showed an effect of story condition on children’s production of complex language. To shed light on these findings and to understand better the role of caregiver interactions in children’s language development, Study 4 (N = 35) investigated the relative contributions of caregiver abstraction and elaboration to children’s language skills. Results showed that only elaboration was positively associated with children’s concurrent vocabulary skills. In addition, there were few significant associations with children’s later skills. However, the pattern of results suggested that these two aspects of the shared-reading interaction may relate to different domains of children’s language development. The above findings contribute to our knowledge about storybook-reading interactions and their role in preschool-age children’s language development. Recommendations are made for those designing and implementing shared-reading interventions.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnne Hesketh (Supervisor), Gina Conti-Ramsden (Supervisor) & Andrew Stewart (Supervisor)


  • language development
  • storybook-reading
  • preschoolers
  • abstract talk

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