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Research Report

Oral Narrative Skills: Explaining the Language-Emergent Literacy Link by Race/Ethnicity and SES

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This study uses the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to explore how language at age 2 is associated with narrative skills at age 4 and emergent literacy outcomes at age 5 for a nationally representative sample of children. This study is the first to demonstrate the connection between African American preschoolers’ oral storytelling abilities and the development of their early reading skills. Previous research suggests that African American children are skilled in telling complex narratives of many different types, which may provide clues to the new study’s findings. Oral story telling has been an important part of the histories of many peoples—and an especially rich aspect of the black culture across the African diaspora. The findings suggest the importance of recognizing and capitalizing on storytelling skills to help young African American children with their early reading development.


Gardner-Neblett, N., & Iruka, I. U. (2015). Oral narrative skills: Explaining the language-emergent literacy link by race/ethnicity and SES. Developmental Psychology, 51, 889-904.

Related topics

Oral Language