Children's Literacy Experiences in Low-Income Families: The Content of Books Matters

Rufan Luo, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Alan L. Mendelsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors examined children's access to books in 153 four-year-olds from low-income, U.S. ethnic-minority families. Mothers reported on the number of books available to their children and the variety of books their children had, such as concept books about letters, numbers, and shapes and narrative books about cultural beliefs and relationships. Mothers also reported on the frequency of mother–child book-sharing interactions. The authors coded characteristics of book-sharing interactions from videos of mother–child sharing of a wordless book. Most children had a variety of concept books but few narrative books. Children who were later born and who had English-speaking (vs. Spanish-speaking) parents had a greater variety of narrative books than did their counterparts, and children living with their father and mother had a greater variety of narrative and concept books than those who did not reside with their father. The variety of narrative books predicted children's narrative contributions during book sharing through the mediator of mothers’ questions about the story. In contrast, the variety of concept books predicted children's referential contributions (e.g., “That's a tree”) through the mediator of mothers’ referential questions (e.g., “What's that?”). Household composition, home language use, and the content of books shape the early literacy experiences of children from low-income, ethnic-minority families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-233
Number of pages21
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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