Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years: Associations With Children’s Vocabulary and Literacy Skills at Prekindergarten


  • This work was conducted at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and reflects the doctoral dissertation of Eileen T. Rodriguez. The findings reported here are based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Contract 105-95-1936 to Mathematica Policy Research Inc., Princeton, NJ, and Columbia University’s Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, in conjunction with the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The Consortium consists of representatives from 17 programs participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and ACF. Research institutions in the Consortium (and principal researchers) include ACF (Rachel Chazan Cohen, Judith Jerald, Esther Kresh, Helen Raikes, and Louisa Tarullo); Catholic University of America (Michaela Farber, Harriet Liebow, Nancy Taylor, Elizabeth Timberlake, and Shavaun Wall); Columbia University (Lisa Berlin, Christy Brady-Smith, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Allison Sidle Fuligni); Harvard University (Catherine Ayoub, Barbara Alexander Pan, and Catherine Snow); Iowa State University (Dee Draper, Gayle Luze, Susan McBride, and Carla Peterson); Mathematica Policy Research (Kimberly Boller, Jill Constantine, Ellen Eliason Kisker, John M. Love, Diane Paulsell, Christine Ross, Peter Schochet, Cheri Vogel, and Welmoet van Kammen); Medical University of South Carolina (Richard Faldowski, Gui-Young Hong, and Susan Pickrel); Michigan State University (Hiram Fitzgerald, Tom Reischl, and Rachel Schiffman); New York University (Mark Spellmann and Catherine Tamis-LeMonda); University of Arkansas (Robert Bradley, Richard Clubb, Andrea Hart, Mark Swanson, and Leanne Whiteside-Mansell); University of California, Los Angeles (Carollee Howes and Claire Hamilton); University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (Robert Emde, Jon Korfmacher, JoAnn Robinson, Paul Spicer, and Norman Watt); University of Kansas (Jane Atwater, Judith Carta; and Jean Ann Summers); University of Missouri-Columbia (Mark Fine, Jean Ispa, and Kathy Thornburg); University of Pittsburgh (Beth Green, Carol McAllister, and Robert McCall); University of Washington School of Education (Eduardo Armijo and Joseph Stowitschek); University of Washington School of Nursing (Kathryn Barnard and Susan Spieker), and Utah State University (Lisa Boyce, Gina Cook, Catherine Callow-Heusser, and Lori Roggman). The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government. We extend our gratitude to Erin E. O’Connor and Mark E. Spellmann for their feedback and support during the preparation of this manuscript. Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda also acknowledges funding from the National Science Foundation (Grants 0218159 and 0721383), which supports NYU’s Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education.

  • Present Address: Eileen T. Rodriguez, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., P.O. Box 2393, Princeton, NJ 08543-2393

  • Present Address: Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, PhD, New York University, Center for Research on Culture, Development, & Education, 246 Greene Street, 410W, New York, NY 10003

concerning this article should be addressed to Eileen T. Rodriguez or Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education, New York University, 246 Greene Street, 410W, New York, NY 10003. Electronic mail may be sent to or


Children’s home learning environments were examined in a low-income sample of 1,852 children and families when children were 15, 25, 37, and 63 months. During home visits, children’s participation in literacy activities, the quality of mothers’ engagements with their children, and the availability of learning materials were assessed, yielding a total learning environment score at each age. At 63 months, children’s vocabulary and literacy skills were assessed. Six learning environment trajectories were identified, including environments that were consistently low, environments that were consistently high, and environments characterized by varying patterns of change. The skills of children at the extremes of learning environment trajectories differed by more than 1 SD and the timing of learning experiences related to specific emerging skills.