The Role of Home Literacy Experiences in the Acquisition of Language and Literacy

In this research, we document the transition from home to school. We assessed how very specific home literacy experiences facilitate how young children acquire reading skills. The Home Literacy Model we developed based on our longitudinal research is now guiding other researchers.

Acquisition of Vocabulary

We are interested in understanding how children learn language from storybook reading episodes. First, we observed the communication between parents and very young children (9 to 18 months) during storybook reading to document how parents change their communicative styles as a function of the language skills of their child. Second, we developed tools that allowed us to assess, in a novel way, how the frequency of exposure to storybooks at home is significantly related to preschool children’s language skills. Third, we conduct studies to test which communicative styles during storybook reading were more conducive to preschool children learning new words. Fourth, we conduct intervention studies in daycares to assess how storybook reading can enhance the vocabulary of children with language delays.

Learning to Read and Write in French and Other Languages

Most of what we know about how children learn to read and write comes from studies conducted with English speaking children. We know much less about how children learn in other languages such as French. One possibility is that the mechanisms are the same across languages. Another is that the characteristics of the language affect how children learn. In the CLLR lab, we conduct research to test whether the characteristics of the language influence how children learn. We examine this possibility with the French language as well as other languages (e.g., Farsi). In some studies, the children speak only one language, and in others, they are bilingual.

Individual Differences in Phonological Processing

Young children’s ability to manipulate the sounds within words (phoneme awareness) is one of the best predictors of their eventual success in learning how to read. In the CCLR lab, we are trying to understand how individual differences in children’s phoneme awareness develop. We are particularly interested in understanding how the quality of children’s speech might affect the development of their representation of phonemes in memory, and, consequently, their awareness of those phonemes.