The Role of Decontextualized Speech in the Language Development of Preschoolers

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Kelsheimer, Kylie
Literacy is often a significant focus of parental efforts during a child’s early years. Simple ways to improve a child’s early literacy outcomes include engaging in pretend play with the child or simply guiding them through imaginative storytelling, which has been shown to have a higher significance than dialogic book reading alone. Another way to increase a child’s exposure to and use of decontextualized language is through the recollection of past events. Lastly, explanatory dialogue can take place throughout the day as a parent or child describes why something has occurred or how something must be done. Decontextualized language is any language that is removed from the child’s current physical surroundings. It can be categorized as either narrative, pretend, or explanatory and requires the child to understand both sequencing and causality and the capacity for imaginative, pretend play. Exposure to decontextualized speech on an everyday basis within the home has been demonstrated to correlate positively with a child’s vocabulary and literacy outcomes by the age of five years old (Beals, 2001; Snow et al., 2001). Although these studies were conducted with low-income children and their families, a question remains concerning how typical the results found from their samples are across the range of American families. This question is particularly important since the language input within low-income and culturally diverse families has often been underestimated (Sperry et al., 2019).