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Latino Studies Child Language Acquisition
by
Alison Sparks, Diana Leyva

Introduction

The study of language acquisition in children growing up in Latino families is a burgeoning field of research found in work that spans the social-science disciplines. These studies employ a broad range of methodologies and explore the linguistic, psychological, and sociocultural contexts of language learning. Latino children are members of the largest minority group within the United States. Some Latino children descend from the indigenous people who lived in North America before the colonial explorations, while others trace their roots to the many Spanish-speaking countries of the world. They grow up in a complex linguistic and cultural mix, making them a fascinating group of children for the study of language acquisition. Thus, Latino children are an important source for understanding language lived in rich cultural-linguistic environments, which is increasingly the norm for child development in societies throughout the world. An important challenge for researchers who work on language acquisition among Latino children is to understand the cognitive-linguistic processes that may be universally or specifically observed in bilingual children learning two languages from an early age. Another area of research explores the sociolinguistic world of children who grow up in Latino families, examining their unique ways of learning to communicate in a mélange of linguistic codes. An important piece of this research has been to understand the developmental pathways for literacy learning in children who are English-language learners. Latino children, who represent almost a quarter of all children enrolled in public schools, are at high risk for academic problems, beginning in the early years of formal schooling. Understanding the complex processes of oral and written language development is especially important for educators, researchers, and policymakers who are seeking to improve this group’s academic success at all levels of education in the United States. The work included here not only focuses on English- and Spanish-speaking populations within the United States and its territories, but it also includes work with Spanish-speaking families in other countries of the world. Although this series defines Latinos as people in the United States who are members of Spanish-speaking communities and cultures living in the United States, studies that compare the development of Spanish-speaking children in the United States to their peers in Latin America or Spain add an important comparative element to this research and are included here to highlight the truly global perspective afforded to us by studying language acquisition from the Latino perspective. Finally, in this work we do not separate the research into topic headings because many of the studies cut across organizational themes. For instance, there is no separate section on bilingualism, because the experience of the bilingual is such a fundamental part of Latino life that work on this topic appears in every section of the bibliography.

General Overviews

These works were selected as introductory texts for the study of language acquisition in Latino communities. Goldstein 2012 provides an outstanding introduction to language development and language disorders in bilingual, Spanish-English-speaking children, while Garcia, et al. 2007 examines the development of literacy. McCabe, et al. 2008 explores the development of narrative discourse in Latino communities throughout the Americas. Shiro, et al. 2001 surveys research on monolingual Spanish speakers throughout the world, beginning in the 1970s. Zentella 1997 systematically documents and analyzes the use of Spanglish in the everyday lives of Latino families. These works serve as broad starting points but also include detailed investigations of particular topics in the field.

  • García, Eugene E., and Bryant Jensen. “Language Development and Early Education of Young Hispanic Children in the United States.” In Contemporary Perspectives on Language and Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Education. Edited by Olivia N. Saracho and Bernard Spodek, 43–64. Contemporary Perspectives in Early Childhood Education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age, 2010.

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    This book chapter reviews research on language development as it relates to school achievement for Latino children, especially over the early elementary years. It is especially notable for a synthesis of research on demographic and linguistic profiles of young Latino children.

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  • Garcia, Gil Narro, Peggy McCardle, and Stephanie M. Nixon. “Prologue: Development of English Literacy in Spanish-Speaking Children: Transforming Research into Practice.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 38.3 (1 July 2007): 213–215.

    DOI: 10.1044/0161-1461(2007/022)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A special section with a clinical focus that includes five articles examining the impact of early language and cultural factors on the development of literacy in Spanish-English language learners. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Goldstein, Brian A., ed. Bilingual Language Development and Disorders in Spanish-English Speakers. 2d ed. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 2012.

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    This collection of articles by leading researchers provides an outstanding introduction to the field. The range of topics on bilingual language acquisition included in this volume, and links to assessment or intervention with children, will appeal to a broad audience of researchers and practitioners. Originally published in 2004.

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  • McCabe, Allyssa, Alison L. Bailey, and Gigliana Melzi, eds. Spanish-Language Narration and Literacy: Culture, Cognition, and Emotion. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511815669Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This seminal collection of studies explores the development of narrative discourse in Latino communities throughout the Americas. It examines the many ways that Latino children learn to tell stories and the relationships between Latino storytelling and literacy.

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  • Shiro, Martha, Paola Uccelli, Claudia Ordóñez, Rebeca Barriga Villanueva, Catherine Snow, and Beatrice Schnell. “Learning to Talk: A Partial Review of Research on Spanish Language Development.” In Research on Child Language Acquisition: Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the International Association for the Study of Child Language. Edited by Margareta Almagren, Andoni Barreña, María-José Ezeizabarrena, Itziar Idiazabal, and Brian MacWhinney, 582–604. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla, 2001.

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    This review article of research on the acquisition of oral language in monolingual Spanish speakers surveys work on the development of syntax and discourse of children living in the United States, Spain, and Latin America. This is an especially valuable window into a vast literature that is found in a wide range of sources.

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  • Zentella, Ana Celia. Growing Up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1997.

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    In this monumental ethnography following twenty Puerto Rican families living in New York City, Zentella’s thick description brings to life the language socialization of five young girls in “El Barrio.” This engaging book explores the “bilingual/multidialectal repertoire, that is, a spectrum of linguistic codes” (p. 41) through which members of this social group build their individual identities and their community.

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Experimental Studies

The experimental work included here examines the effects of bilingualism on the cognitive-linguistic development of young Latino children. Pearson, et al. 1997 is the first study to have measured children’s early vocabulary and adult language input in Spanish-English bilinguals. Carlson, et al. 2008 studies differences between monolingual and bilingual children on tasks of executive function. Hoff, et al. 2012 compares measures of early language acquisition in a sample of monolingual English-speaking children and Spanish-English-speaking bilingual children, supplying important early developmental data on bilingual language learning. Hammer, et al. 2012 examines the impact of home factors on Spanish and English vocabulary and story recall. Dickinson, et al. 2004 focuses on interconnections between bilingual preschoolers’ developing language and literacy. Marchman, et al. 2010 studies vocabulary size and spoken word recognition.

  • Carlson, Stephanie M., and Andrew N. Meltzoff. “Bilingual Experience and Executive Functioning in Young Children.” Developmental Science 11.2 (2008): 282–298.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00675.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study extends prior research on differences between monolingual and bilingual children on tasks of executive function to a sample of monolingual and Latino (defined here as Spanish-English speaking from birth) children. An especially intriguing finding is that even though the bilingual children were less skilled in initial levels of verbal ability and came from families where parents reported lower levels of education and shared reading at home, they outperformed their monolingual peers on many measures of executive function.

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  • Dickinson, David K., Allyssa McCabe, Nancy Clark-Chiarelli, and Anne Wolf. “Cross-Language Transfer of Phonological Awareness in Low-Income Spanish and English Bilingual Preschool Children.” Applied Psycholinguistics 25.3 (June 2004): 323–347.

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    This study demonstrates the early interconnections between languages in four-year-old Spanish-English bilinguals over a year of preschool. The study findings suggest that use of Spanish language at home supports children’s early literacy in the form of phonological awareness skills. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hammer, Carol Scheffner, Eugene Komaroff, Barbara L. Rodriguez, Lisa M. Lopez, Shelley E. Scarpino, and Brian Goldstein. “Predicting Spanish-English Bilingual Children’s Language Abilities.” Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 55.5 (1 October 2012): 1251–1264.

    DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0016)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study uses a sample of preschool-age children from urban centers in New Mexico and is notable for including measures of language use from mothers, fathers, and teachers. The findings that mothers’ and fathers’ patterns of language use at home had differential effects on children’s vocabulary knowledge points to the important role of both parents in socializing their bilingual children. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hoff, Erika, Cynthia Core, Silvia Place, Rosario Rumiche, Melissa Señor, and Marisol Parra. “Dual Language Exposure and Early Bilingual Development.” Journal of Child Language 39.1 (January 2012): 1–27.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0305000910000759Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hoff and colleagues have gathered this sample of children from high-SES backgrounds in order to test the effects of dual language exposure on young children in a relatively homogeneous population of language learners. Findings support previous work showing similar developmental trends for both monolingual English-speaking children and Spanish-English bilinguals on measures of vocabulary and grammar when bilingual competence is measured in both languages. Differences are found between monolinguals and bilinguals on the rate of acquisition of English. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Marchman, Virginia A., Anne Fernald, and Nereyda Hurtado. “How Vocabulary Size in Two Languages Relates to Efficiency in Spoken Word Recognition by Young Spanish-English Bilinguals.” Journal of Child Language 37.4 (September 2010): 817–840.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0305000909990055Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of the speed and accuracy of spoken word recognition and vocabulary size, in two-year-olds learning English and Spanish simultaneously, is an example of the unique contribution of work with Latino children to our understanding of the cognitive-linguistic processes that underlie language acquisition. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Pearson, Barbara Z., Sylvia C. Fernández, Vanessa Lewedeg, and D. Kimbrough Oller. “The Relation of Input Factors to Lexical Learning by Bilingual Infants.” Applied Psycholinguistics 18.1 (January 1997): 41–58.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0142716400009863Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pearson and colleagues establish a proportional relationship between children’s expressive vocabulary at two years and the amount of home language exposure for each language. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Language Assessment/Intervention

The increasing number of Spanish-English bilingual Latino children attending school has made assessment and intervention designed for bilinguals an important topic of research. It is well known that Latinos are disproportionally overenrolled in special education services and diagnosed with language impairment. To better serve Latino children, recent research has been devoted to the development of nonbiased language evaluation instruments and assessment tasks. The research included in this section translates investigations of language acquisition in Latino children to clinical applications of this work. Barrueco, et al. 2012 is a rich resource for those who face the challenge of evaluating the language competence of Spanish-English bilingual children. Pearson, et al. 1993, a seminal study of lexical development, compares monolinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals. Goldstein 2012 is an authoritative and comprehensive collection of essays on language development in English-Spanish bilinguals. Gutiérrez-Clellan 1999 is a thorough and well-considered discussion of research that informs decision making about language choice for intervention with bilingual children. Gutiérrez-Clellen and Simon-Cereijido 2010 is an important contribution to developing clinical indicators of language impairment in Spanish-English-speaking school-age children. Rojas and Iglesias 2006 describes a method for coding Spanish or Spanish-English narrative samples; this method can be used for research or clinical purposes. Peña 2007 discusses the challenges of assessment from a cross-cultural perspective as observed in work with Latino children.

  • Barrueco, Sandra, Michael López, Christine Ong, and Patricia Lozano. Assessing Spanish-English Bilingual Preschoolers: A Guide to Best Approaches and Measures. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 2012.

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    This is an essential volume for practitioners and researchers who must choose developmental assessments for Spanish-speaking bilingual language learners. Following a discussion of issues related to evaluating bilingual children, the authors include a comprehensive review of thirty-seven standardized measures, reporting on administration procedures, validity and reliability, and the use of the measures in current research.

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  • Goldstein, Brian A., ed. Bilingual Language Development and Disorders in Spanish-English Speakers. 2d ed. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 2012.

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    This collection of articles is an outstanding introduction to the field of language development and language disorders in bilingual, Spanish-English-speaking children. This volume is essential reading in courses covering language acquisition in Latino children. Originally published in 2004.

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  • Gutiérrez-Clellen, Vera F. “Language Choice in Intervention with Bilingual Children.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 8.4 (1 November 1999): 291–302.

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    The majority of the studies reviewed are based on samples of Spanish-speaking bilinguals. The conclusion, that bilingual children, both typically developing and those with special needs, benefit from a bilingual approach to learning, remains unchallenged. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Gutiérrez-Clellen, Vera F., and Gabriela Simon-Cereijido. “Using Nonword Repetition Tasks for the Identification of Language Impairment in Spanish-English-Speaking Children: Does the Language of Assessment Matter?” Learning Disabilities Research & Practice 25.1 (February 2010): 48–58.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5826.2009.00300.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study, the authors test the children both on an English and a Spanish nonword repetition task. The Spanish nonword repetition task used was developed specifically for the study and reflected the prosodic and phonological features of Spanish words. The authors’ findings suggest that the use of a nonword repetition task in both languages, along with other language measures, can be a practical tool for identifying language impairment in Spanish-English bilingual children. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Pearson, Barbara Zurer, Sylvia C. Fernández, and D. Kimbrough Oller. “Lexical Development in Bilingual Infants and Toddlers: Comparison to Monolingual Norms.” Language Learning 43.1 (March 1993): 93–120.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1993.tb00174.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pearson and colleagues introduced the idea of Total Conceptual Vocabulary for measuring the overall lexical competence of bilinguals. By including measures of lexical knowledge that account for both languages in bilinguals, not just one, they were able to demonstrate that young bilingual children were not significantly different in their vocabulary development from their monolingual peers. Since 1993, conceptual scoring, in which the child’s correct responses to test items are accepted regardless of the language used, has become an important practice in test development for bilingual children.

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  • Peña, Elizabeth D. “Lost in Translation: Methodological Considerations in Cross-Cultural Research.” Child Development 78.4 (July–August 2007): 1255–1264.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01064.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article is an essential discussion of the perils of using English-language measures for assessment of children and families who come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The author explores the challenges to validity posed by mere translation of instruments and illustrates the problems with examples from assessment of Latino children. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Rojas, Raúl, and Aquiles Iglesias. “Bilingual (Spanish-English) Narrative Language Analyses: Why and How?” Perspectives on Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations 13.1 (March 2006): 3–8.

    DOI: 10.1044/cds13.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors discuss the use of spontaneous language sampling in clinical assessments of Latino, English-Spanish bilinguals, by using narrative retellings with a wordless picture book. Rojas and Iglesias have amassed a large database of Spanish-English-speaking bilingual children from communities throughout Texas who provided narrative samples (story retellings with wordless picture books) within the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts. Researchers and clinicians learn to code story retellings on language sample measures by using this protocol, comparing them to the corpus of retellings in the Texas English Language Learner database. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Literacy

As Latinos become the largest minority group in public schools, the repertoire of language and discourse practices they take with them to the classroom has become the focus of investigation. A critical goal for language acquisition research is to chart the developmental pathways for literacy learning in Latino children who are English-language learners. Researchers are keenly aware of the need to understand the linguistic, psychological, and social components of early learning to enhance academic success for young Latino children. Zentella 2005 is the first collection of work to describe oral and written language socialization practices across the diverse communities of Latino families in the United States. Garcia, et al. 2007 introduces a set of research articles with Spanish-speaking English-language learners; these articles provide a clinical perspective on early literacy learning. Gillanders and Jiménez 2004 analyzes the benefit of Mexican immigrant families’ contributions to their children’s early learning, while Ortiz and Ordoñez-Jasis 2005 reviews research on home literacy practices in Latino communities. Caspe 2009 examines the relation between mothers’ booksharing styles and children’s literacy learning. Reese, et al. 2000 discusses the results of a longitudinal study following children from kindergarten through seventh grade; this study demonstrates the impact of early skills both in Spanish and English on later reading achievement. Sayer 2008 provides a sociocultural perspective on the use of Spanglish in the classroom.

  • Caspe, Margaret. “Low-Income Latino Mothers’ Booksharing Styles and Children’s Emergent Literacy Development.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 24.3 (2009): 306–324.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2009.03.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author identifies three book-reading styles of low-income Latino mothers (Mexican and Dominican immigrants) and their four-year-old children’s language and literacy achievement at a six-month post-test. The majority of the mothers used a recitation style, acting as sole narrators of the book, and their children achieved the highest scores on emergent literacy at the end of the school year. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Garcia, Gil Narro, Peggy McCardle, and Stephanie M. Nixon. “Prologue: Development of English Literacy in Spanish-Speaking Children; Transforming Research into Practice.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 38.3 (1 July 2007): 213–215.

    DOI: 10.1044/0161-1461(2007/022)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This special section features five articles on early literacy learning in Spanish-speaking English-language learners. The range of topics, including home literacy practices, the role of children’s narrative skills in early literacy, and initial language proficiency in later reading achievement, will be of interest both to practitioners and researchers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Gillanders, Cristina, and Robert T. Jiménez. “Reaching for Success: A Close-Up of Mexican Immigrant Parents in the USA Who Foster Literacy Success for Their Kindergarten Children.” Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 4.3 (December 2004): 243–269.

    DOI: 10.1177/1468798404044513Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The study explores the successful contributions of Latino families to children’s developing language and early academic learning. The authors explore parental beliefs and home practices in two low-income Latino families with bilingual children entering kindergarten who exhibit strong emergent literacy skills. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Ortiz, Robert W., and Rosario Ordoñez-Jasis. “Leyendo Juntos (Reading Together): New Directions for Latino Parents’ Early Literacy Involvement.” Reading Teacher 59.2 (1 October 2005): 110–121.

    DOI: 10.1598/RT.59.2.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors use findings on Latino parents’ literacy practices throughout the United States to suggest culturally sensitive ways for educators and interventionists to connect home-based and school-based knowledge and to increase parents’ shared participation in print-rich activities with children. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Reese, Leslie, Helen Garnier, Ronald Gallimore, and Claude Goldenberg. “Longitudinal Analysis of the Antecedents of Emergent Spanish Literacy and Middle-School English Reading Achievement of Spanish-Speaking Students.” American Educational Research Journal 37.3 (September 2000): 633–662.

    DOI: 10.3102/00028312037003633Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A longitudinal study examining the impact of Spanish-speaking children’s home literacy environments and their kindergarten Spanish and English emergent literacy skills on their seventh-grade reading in English. The results demonstrate the importance of emergent literacy skills both in Spanish and English for children who attained the highest level of reading skills in middle school. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sayer, Peter. “Demystifying Language Mixing: Spanglish in School.” Journal of Latinos and Education 7.2 (2008): 94–112.

    DOI: 10.1080/15348430701827030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sayers explores the use of code switching and Spanglish in a classroom reading group of bilingual third graders. The study documents varied forms of Spanglish used by children during book discussions, and the author makes a case for the use of Spanglish in the classroom to promote children’s academic learning and cultural identity. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Zentella, Ana Celia, ed. Building on Strength: Language and Literacy in Latino Families and Communities. New York: Teachers College Press, 2005.

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    This is the first collection of work to explore the complex processes of language socialization in the diverse communities of Latinos in the United States. The volume is a rich source of knowledge on oral and written language acquisition in the many contexts (home, church, school, etc.) in which Latino families raise their children. Published simultaneously by the California Association for Bilingual Education (Corvino, CA).

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Narrative Discourse

How children learn to narrate significant stories from their lives to others has become an important facet of language acquisition research. The works selected for this section come from an emerging body of research on conversations in that documents the unique ways in which Latino families participate in narrative discourse. Delgado-Gaitan 1994 looks closely at one family’s use of storytelling to teach children valuable life lessons. Eisenberg 1985 is an early study of dialogic interactions taking place in immigrant families. McCabe, et al. 2008 studies the connections between storytelling and literacy in children and families in the United States and throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Both Melzi 2000 and Melzi and Caspe 2005 compare cultural differences in maternal narrative styles. Melzi, et al. 2011 broadens the scope of research on parental narrative scaffolding, by introducing the dimension of narrative participation. Sparks 2008 explores the varied ways that Latino mothers support their preschool-age children in reminiscing conversations.

  • Delgado-Gaitan, Concha. “Consejos: The Power of Cultural Narratives.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 25.3 (September 1994): 298–316.

    DOI: 10.1525/aeq.1994.25.3.04x0146pSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This ethnographic study explores a rich narrative genre specific to Latino families, consejos, as told by a Mexican immigrant couple to their children in daily family conversations. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Eisenberg, Ann R. “Learning to Describe Past Experiences in Conversation.” Discourse Processes 8.2 (1985): 177–204.

    DOI: 10.1080/01638538509544613Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrant children are observed in conversation with their parents between twenty-one and thirty-two months of age. Eisenberg discusses a parental elicitation style that enhanced child participation and engagement in reminiscing conversations. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • McCabe, Allyssa, Alison L. Bailey, and Gigliana Melzi, eds. Spanish-Language Narration and Literacy: Culture, Cognition, and Emotion. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511815669Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This seminal collection of studies explores the development of narrative discourse in Latino communities throughout the Americas. It examines the many ways that Latino children learn to tell stories, and the links between Latino storytelling and literacy.

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  • Melzi, Gigliana. “Cultural Variations in the Construction of Personal Narratives: Central American and European American Mothers’ Elicitation Styles.” Discourse Processes 30.2 (2000): 153–177.

    DOI: 10.1207/S15326950DP3002_04Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the first study to have compared parents’ narrative elicitation styles during past-event conversations across cultural contexts. Melzi finds that Spanish-speaking mothers from Central America used strategies to enhance children’s participation in conversation, while the English-speaking mothers in the United States used a style that placed more emphasis on children’s use of organizational components of narratives. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Melzi, Gigliana, and Margaret Caspe. “Variations in Maternal Narrative Styles during Book Reading Interactions.” Narrative Inquiry 15.1 (2005): 101–125.

    DOI: 10.1075/ni.15.1.06melSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors examine the narrative styles of Spanish-speaking Peruvian and English-speaking US mothers from middle-class backgrounds while reading a wordless picture book with their three-year-old children. Two narrative styles are observed, storytellers and storybuilders, reflecting cultural assumptions about supporting children’s development. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Melzi, Gigliana, Adina R. Schick, and Joy L. Kennedy. “Narrative Elaboration and Participation: Two Dimensions of Maternal Elicitation Style.” Child Development 82.4 (July–August 2011): 1282–1296.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01600.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors introduce the dimension of narrative participation, the degree to which the parent and child work together to create a story. The study compares dyads from two urban, middle-class groups in Peru (Spanish speaking) and in the United States (English speaking); cultural differences in narrative participation during reminiscing and in booksharing conversations are found, reflecting different socialization goals of the two communities. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sparks, Alison. “Latino Mothers and Their Preschool Children Talk about the Past: Implications for Language and Literacy.” In Spanish-Language Narration and Literacy: Culture, Cognition, and Emotion. Edited by Allyssa McCabe, Alison L. Bailey, and Gigliana Melzi, 273–295. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511815669Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study examines maternal contributions to reminiscing conversations and children’s independent narrative skills. Links between Latino mothers’ elaborative comments during talk about behavior-related events and children’s independent personal injury stories suggest that talk about behavior may be a culturally salient topic in family reminiscing. A qualitative analysis of one family in conversation explores the structure and function of teasing as a strategy to engage children in reminiscing about behavior-related events.

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Socio-emotional Development and Language Learning

An important and underexplored topic in language acquisition is the relationship between children’s emerging language competence and their socio-emotional skills. Recent research has shown the importance of social skills for school success for all children, yet child language research has more often focused on the cognitive-linguistic outcomes of early learning and has neglected the connections between language and the social-emotional components of learning. Chang, et al. 2007 and Leyva, et al. 2012 point to the important role that studies of Latino children play in understanding the essential link between language acquisition and socio-emotional development.

  • Chang, Florence, Gisele Crawford, Diane Early, et al. “Spanish-Speaking Children’s Social and Language Development in Pre-kindergarten Classrooms.” Early Education & Development 18.2 (2007): 243–269.

    DOI: 10.1080/10409280701282959Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    To examine the impact of social interactions on the development of children’s social competence, the authors assess the number of Spanish-language conversations between preschoolers and teachers. Contrary to some recent educational policies that advocate for English-only preschool classrooms, this study finds significant social and cognitive benefits for children in classrooms where they participated in higher levels of Spanish-language conversation with their teachers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Leyva, Diana, Monica Berrocal, and Virginia Nolivos. “Spanish-Speaking Parent-Child Emotional Narratives and Children’s Social Skills.” Journal of Cognition and Development (2012).

    DOI: 10.1080/15248372.2012.725188Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study is the first to examine the link between low-income Latino parental emotional talk and preschool children’s social skills. Findings suggest that parents who resolve negative emotions during past-event conversations by teaching a moral lesson, reassuring the child, or reestablishing their relationship have children with better social problem-solving skills; these skills are foundational for school readiness.

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LAST MODIFIED: 03/19/2013

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199913701-0012

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