Intersubjectivity as a precursor to literacy : revisiting the home-school study of language and literacy development
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The oral language skills children develop during the first five years of life are crucial to success in school, especially within the literacy domain. Researchers have identified aspects of oral language that predict, transfer to, or map onto children’s later written language abilities. Many researchers studying this topic have taken a social interaction approach by seeking to investigate ways in which early language interactions relate to children’s later literacy skills. In quantitative studies, however, this has primarily been done by simply including measures of caregiver talk as independent variables in analyses. By doing this, such studies effectively only measure language input rather than language interaction, thus undermining the sociocultural framework on which they are based. Sociocultural theory reasons that co-constructed meaning is greater than (and may be qualitatively distinct from) the sum of its parts. This study offers a method to overcome this measurement problem by showing how intersubjectivity can be measured to capture qualities of co-constructed meaning within language interactions. Data from the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development were reanalyzed by coding aspects of caregiver-child intersubjectivity. These intersubjective measures were quantified and entered into three separate regression models to test the predictability of parent-child joint meaning-making on children’s later reading scores. Results revealed positive, significant relationships between early parent-child language interactions and children’s literacy scores in first grade, thus adding to the knowledge base of the oral language-to-literacy connection and providing empirical support for this new method of quantifying language variables in social interaction studies.