Group Size and Storybook Reading: Two-Year-Old Children's Verbal and Nonverbal Participation With Books

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Storybook reading in child care classrooms typically occurs in one large group, a context that does not provide opportunities for each child to talk about the book. Two-year-old children, in particular, need individual support to facilitate their language participation, and they want to touch the book and be close to the teacher. The purpose of the present study was to determine if reducing group size would increase 2-year-old children's engagement and verbal participation during storybook reading, and to describe their nonverbal participation. Fifteen 2-year-old children and six teachers in two classrooms participated. A multiple baseline across settings time-series experimental design was used. Videotapes were transcribed and coded for children's engagement, comments and questions, and nonverbal participation. Observations of book use were conducted during freeplay. The average number of comments and questions per child approximately doubled when reading occurred in small groups. Children participated nonverbally by actions such as pointing, handling books, moving close to the teacher, interacting with peers, and pretending. The results indicate that reducing group size can be an effective method for increasing the verbal participation of 2-year-old children during storybook reading in child care classrooms. The results are discussed in terms of the importance of ecological context, and ways of including small group storybook reading in the daily schedule are suggested.