Parent-Child Shared Book Reading: Children's Learning of Natural Selection from a Digital Book

Author: ORCID icon
Matthews, Shoronda, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Jirout, Jamie, ED-EDLF Department, University of Virginia

Research on shared parent-child book reading finds that it can provide support to children’s learning in the areas of language and literacy development (Chow et al., 2008; Lever & Sénéchal, 2011; Parish-Morris et al., 2013). Children show the capacity for science learning when reading with a researcher or teacher (Altun, 2019; Daubert et al., 2020; Ganea et al., 2011; Kelemen et al., 2014), but limited work has examined whether shared book reading experiences with parents can impact children’s learning of science concepts. Questioning, such as pedagogical questioning, and children’s utterances are a part of these reading experiences that research finds to relate to children’s learning (Blewitt et al., 2009; Daubert et al., 2020; Legare, 2014; Lombrozo, 2006; Wellman, 2011; Yu et al., 2018; Yu et al., 2019). In this dissertation I examine whether 1) parent-child digital book reading is associated with children’s learning about natural selection, 2) parents’ pedagogical questions during shared book reading are associated with children’s learning about natural selection, 3) parents’ pedagogical questions during shared book reading are associated with children’ utterances, 4) children’s utterances during shared book reading are associated with children’s learning about natural selection and 5) children’s utterances mediated the association between parent pedagogical questions and children’s learning of natural selection. Twenty-five parent-child dyads with children ages seven and eight (M = 7.64, SD = 0.49) participated in the study, which was conducted over Zoom and took place in one 45-60 minute session. Dyads read a children’s science book about natural selection and parents were encouraged to ask their child questions while reading, with children completing pre-test and post-test measures of natural selection understanding.

Children made gains in their understanding of natural selection after reading with a parent, with a significant change in children’s scores from pre-to post-test measures. However, parent questions and child utterances were not related to learning. Results also show that the associations between parents’ pedagogical questions and children’s utterances were significant. Taken together, these results reveal that children can learn science concepts when reading with a parent. It also indicates that children talk more in a science learning task through book reading when pedagogical questions are asked by their parent. The lack of association between parent questions and child utterances with science learning suggests that there may be other factors related to parents’ questions and children’s utterances outside of quantity that better support children’s learning.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Science Learning, Book Reading, Parent-child Interactions
Sponsoring Agency:
Institute of Education Sciences (R305B200005)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: