Mother-child conversations at 36 months and at pre-kindergarten: Relations to children's school readiness

Tonia N. Cristofaro, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The contributions of mothers' and children's oral language to children's school readiness were longitudinally examined among 75 low-income mothers and children. When children were 36 months, mothers' and children's lexical diversity, mothers' wh-questions, and children's PPVT-III scores were assessed from play interactions. At pre-kindergarten, mothers and children shared a personal narrative, and various aspects of mothers' and children's narratives were coded. Children were assessed on their knowledge about print, letter-word identification, mathematical skills and sustained attention, and scores were combined into a single factor of school readiness. Structural equation analyses yielded two pathways to school readiness. Mothers' wh-questions and lexical diversity predicted children's PPVT-III scores at 36 months, which in turn predicted children's school readiness. Mothers' 36-month lexical diversity predicted mothers' narrative prompts, which related to children's narrative contributions. Children's narrative contributions in turn predicted school readiness. Mother-child conversations support the school readiness of children from low-income backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-97
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Early Childhood Literacy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • mother-child interactions
  • mother-child language
  • mother-child narratives
  • narrative development
  • school readiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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