Children Who Tell Stories May Become Strong Readers

A new study suggests that oral narrative skills are a strong predictor of early literacy in African-American children.

A new study suggests that African-American toddlers who are strong storytellers turn into strong readers. 
National Journal
Emily DeRuy
Add to Briefcase
Emily DeRuy
Aug. 17, 2015, 9:50 a.m.

Something un­usu­al and won­der­ful is hap­pen­ing with Afric­an-Amer­ic­an ba­bies.

Black tod­dlers who are good at telling stor­ies are more likely to have strong read­ing skills in kinder­garten, ac­cord­ing to new re­search from the Frank Port­er Gra­ham (FPG) Child De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute at the Uni­versity of North Car­o­lina-Chapel Hill.

Sur­pris­ingly, the same link doesn’t ex­ist when it comes to white, Latino, or Asi­an chil­dren.

“Or­al storytelling has been an im­port­ant part of the his­tor­ies of many peoples, and an es­pe­cially rich as­pect of the black cul­ture across the Afric­an di­a­spora,” Iheoma Iruka, dir­ect­or of re­search and eval­u­ation at the Buf­fett Early Child­hood In­sti­tute at the Uni­versity of Neb­raska and one of the re­search­ers for the study, said in a state­ment.

Afric­an-Amer­ic­an chil­dren are par­tic­u­larly ad­ept at telling com­plex nar­rat­ives of many types, ad­ded FPG re­search­er Nicole Gard­ner-Neb­lett, who led the study.

“Hav­ing a rep­er­toire of dif­fer­ent styles sug­gests that Afric­an-Amer­ic­an chil­dren are flex­ible in their nar­rat­ives, vary­ing the nar­rat­ives ac­cord­ing to con­text,” she said. “This flex­ib­il­ity may be­ne­fit Afric­an-Amer­ic­an chil­dren as they trans­ition from us­ing or­al lan­guage to the de­cod­ing and com­pre­hen­sion of writ­ten text.”

Us­ing a sample of more than 6,000 chil­dren na­tion­wide, the re­search­ers com­pared the or­al storytelling skills of preschool­ers to their emer­gent lit­er­acy a couple of years later in kinder­garten.

While the link was ob­vi­ous only for Afric­an-Amer­ic­an chil­dren, the re­search­ers sug­gest that the as­so­ci­ation may also ex­ist for oth­er chil­dren. It just might not be ap­par­ent un­til later when more de­vel­op­ment has oc­curred.

What does this mean, prac­tic­ally speak­ing?

It means that par­ents and care­givers should en­cour­age chil­dren — es­pe­cially black tod­dlers — to tell stor­ies. The or­al nar­rat­ive skills they pick up in preschool seem to help them be­gin to read. The more com­plex stor­ies they tell, the bet­ter they are at read­ing down the line.

“Build­ing on chil­dren’s or­al nar­rat­ive skills is a strategy for schools look­ing to con­nect with chil­dren,” Iruka said in the state­ment. “Es­pe­cially as schools sup­port chil­dren of col­or who come from a cul­ture that has cher­ished these skills.”

While the re­search­ers ac­know­ledge there are still ques­tions about early lit­er­acy, the study’s ini­tial find­ings may of­fer edu­cat­ors valu­able clues about how they can sup­port chil­dren, par­tic­u­larly Afric­an Amer­ic­ans, as they learn to read.

What We're Following See More »
Trump: High IQ People Loved the Putin Meeting
55 minutes ago
Commerce to Look into Uranium Imports
57 minutes ago

"The Trump administration plans to open an investigation into whether uranium imports are harming national security, a move that could lead to tariffs on foreign shipments of the metal, said three people familiar with the matter. U.S. uranium producers Energy Fuels Inc. and Ur-Energy Inc. filed a petition in January asking the Commerce Department to investigate the matter under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, the same provision the president used to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports."

Google Fined $5 Billion By E.U. For Antitrust Violations
1 hours ago

Google has been fined a record-breaking $5 billion by E.U. regulators for abusing "its Android market dominance." Officials accuse Google of "bundling its search engine and Chrome apps into the operating system," of blocking "phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android," and of making "payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators" to exclusively use the Google Search app. Google plans to appeal the fine.

Comey Says to Vote Democratic This Fall
11 hours ago
Pompeo Called to Testify by Senate Foreign Relations
18 hours ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.