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The Importance of Verbal Interaction in Avoiding Reading Difficulties

How much a child is spoken to, and has the opportunity to speak, can play a great role in how reading difficulties develop.

The major dimension of variability for measures of verbal interaction in the home is the dimension of quantity. It is now clear that, though poor and uneducated families provide much the same array of language experiences as middle-class educated families, the quantity of verbal interaction they tend to provide is much less (Hart and Risley, 1995).

A lower quantity of verbal interaction constitutes a risk factor primarily in that it relates closely to lowered child vocabulary scores, as shown in one large prospective observational study (Hart and Risley, 1995) and in a score of less rigorous studies. Because vocabulary is associated with reading outcomes (see Table 4-1), it seems likely that reduced opportunities for verbal interaction would function as a risk factor.

Furthermore, language-rich experiences in the home are typically associated with activities (like book reading, shared dinner table conversations) that themselves show only modest predictive value. It is possible, too, that the effects of differences in verbal interaction may not show up until after the primary grades, that is, when more high-level comprehension is required.

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Endnotes

Endnotes

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Excerpted from: Snow, C. E., Burns, S. M., & Griffin, P. Editors. (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, Chapter 4: Predictors of Success and Failure in Reading.. National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of National Academy Press. Reprinted with permission.

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