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Asking questions about a text enhances comprehension whether the questions are self-generated by the reader or asked by another. Shared reading occurs when parents ask questions while reading with their children, and it has been demonstrated to enhance comprehension and reading skills. Researchers generally agreed that immigrant Latino parents ask fewer questions during shared reading. In order to understand this issue, we conducted two studies. In the first Study we explored if Latino-parents ask questions to their children while reading a book when not given any further instructions. In Study 2 we provided targeted training regarding question-asking techniques. Both studies are embedded in a larger 8-week reading comprehension program for parent-child dyads.
Study 1 participants were 5 parent-child dyads from Hispanic background who at least completed a high-school degree. The experimenters provided bilingual books that had text both in English and Spanish for the families to read in the language of their choice. Parents were given a read-at home book as homework on weeks 1 and 7. Audio recording showed that across the two home-based reading sessions, the parents asked zero questions. Instead, the parents helped children adequately pronounce words being read in Spanish.
Study 2 followed the same procedure as Study 1, and also incorporated parent-training on the importance of asking questions and techniques to use while reading. Thus, to test its effectiveness another homework after the training was assigned. Participants consisted of 7 parent-child dyads. Because of the small sample size, we do not report traditional inferential test based on summary statistics such as the mean. Instead, we use the median and range to summarize the data, and we report effect sizes to assess the consistency of effects.
The question-asking training had a clear effect on parent-child interactions at Homework 2 (HW2). The median number of parental conversational turns increased to 94. The median number of concrete questions asked by parents increased to 19, and compared to Homework 1 (HW1) this is a partial eta-squared effect size of p2=.44. The median number of abstract questions asked by parents increased to 6, p2=.52. Although there was variability, these increases tended to be maintained at Homework 3 (HW3), which occurred five weeks after the question-asking training. At HW3, the median number of turns was 35, the median number of concrete questions was 4 (compared to HW1, p2=.21), and the median number of abstract questions was 2 (compared to HW1, p2=.35). Among the dyads who showed an increase in concrete questions from HW1 to HW2, all of them engaged in more concrete questions on HW3 than HW1. Of the dyads who showed an increase in abstract questions from HW1 to HW2, three of the four maintained an increase over HW1 on HW3.
Positive results indicate that some of the gaps in shared reading experience between Latino children and mainstream children can be closed with appropriate parent training.