Peterson, C., Jesso, B., & McCabe, A. (1999). Encouraging narratives in preschoolers: An intervention study. Journal of Child Language, 26, 49-67.


Twenty economically disadvantaged preschoolers (mean age 36) were randomly assigned to an intervention or a control group, and their mothers' styles of eliciting narratives from their children were assessed before and after intervention. Mothers of intervention children were encouraged to spend more time in narrative conversation, ask more open-ended and context-eliciting questions, and encourage longer narratives through back-channel responses. Children's narrative and vocabulary skills were assessed before and after the year-long intervention and 14 children participated in a follow-up assessment a year later. Narrative measures included the number and length of narratives as well as how decontextualized and informative they were. Intervention children showed significant vocabulary improvement immediately after intervention terminated, and a year later they showed overall improvements in narrative skill. In particular, intervention children produced more context-setting descriptions about where and especially when the described events took place. Such decontextualized language has been emphasized as important for literacy acquisition.