Narrative processing in typically developing children and children with early unilateral brain injury: seeing gesture matters

Dev Psychol. 2014 Mar;50(3):815-28. doi: 10.1037/a0034322. Epub 2013 Oct 14.


Narrative skill in kindergarteners has been shown to be a reliable predictor of later reading comprehension and school achievement. However, we know little about how to scaffold children's narrative skill. Here we examine whether the quality of kindergarten children's narrative retellings depends on the kind of narrative elicitation they are given. We asked this question with respect to typically developing (TD) kindergarten children and children with pre- or perinatal unilateral brain injury (PL), a group that has been shown to have difficulty with narrative production. We compared children's skill in retelling stories originally presented to them in 4 different elicitation formats: (a) wordless cartoons, (b) stories told by a narrator through the auditory modality, (c) stories told by a narrator through the audiovisual modality without co-speech gestures, and (e) stories told by a narrator in the audiovisual modality with co-speech gestures. We found that children told better structured narratives in response to the audiovisual + gesture elicitation format than in response to the other 3 elicitation formats, consistent with findings that co-speech gestures can scaffold other aspects of language and memory. The audiovisual + gesture elicitation format was particularly beneficial for children who had the most difficulty telling a well-structured narrative, a group that included children with larger lesions associated with cerebrovascular infarcts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comprehension
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Gestures*
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders / etiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Narration*