Relation Between Language Experiences in Preschool Classrooms and Children’s Kindergarten and Fourth-Grade Language and Reading Abilities


  • The Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development, from which these data come, was supported by grants to Catherine Snow and the first author from the Ford Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Agency for Children and Families, Grant 90CD0827, and the W.T. Grant Foundation. The authors are grateful to all for their support; to the families, teachers, and children for their assistance; and to all those who helped on this project, most noteworthy being Catherine Snow, Patton Tabors, Stephanie Ross Harris, Miriam Smith, Linda Cote, Petra Nicholson, and Kevin Roach. An early version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Atlanta, GA, April 7, 2005.

concerning this article should be addressed to David K. Dickinson, Vanderbilt University, Department of Teaching and Learning Peabody #330230, Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203-5721. Electronic mail may be sent to David.Dickinson@Vanderbilt.Edu.


Indirect effects of preschool classroom indexes of teacher talk were tested on fourth-grade outcomes for 57 students from low-income families in a longitudinal study of classroom and home influences on reading. Detailed observations and audiotaped teacher and child language data were coded to measure content and quantity of verbal interactions in preschool classrooms. Preschool teachers’ use of sophisticated vocabulary during free play predicted fourth-grade reading comprehension and word recognition (mean age = 9; 7), with effects mediated by kindergarten child language measures (mean age = 5; 6). In large group preschool settings, teachers’ attention-getting utterances were directly related to later comprehension. Preschool teachers’ correcting utterances and analytic talk about books, and early support in the home for literacy predicted fourth-grade vocabulary, as mediated by kindergarten receptive vocabulary.