Background: Whereas many studies have investigated quantitative aspects of book reading (frequency), few have examined qualitative aspects, especially in very young children and through direct observations of shared reading.
Aim: The purpose of this study was to determine possible differences in book-reading styles between mothers and fathers and between mothers from single- and dual-parent families. It also related types of parental verbalizations during book reading to children's reported language measures.
Sample: Dual-parent (29) and single-parent (24) families were observed in shared book reading with their toddlers (15-month-olds) or young preschoolers (27-month-olds).
Method: Parent-child dyads were videotaped while book reading. The initiator of each book-reading episode was coded. Parents' verbalizations were exhaustively coded into 10 categories. Mothers completed the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory, and the children were given the Bayley scales.
Results: All parents differentiated their verbalizations according to the age rather than the gender of the child, but single mothers imitated female children more than males. Few differences in verbalizations were found between mothers and fathers or between mothers from single- and dual-parent families. Fathers allowed younger children to initiate book-reading episodes more than mothers. For both age groups of children, combined across families, verbalizations that related the book to the child's experience were correlated with reported language measures. Questions and imitations were related to language measures for the older age group.
Conclusions: The important types of parental verbalizations during shared book reading for children's language acquisition are relating, questions and imitations.