Future Directions

The work described here is limited in a number of respects and only begins to scratch the surface of children's abilities to tell different kinds of stories. As is true of the vast bulk of spontaneous-language based research, the dyads studied here were primarily from white, English-speaking, middle-class families. Data on parent-child conversations in low-income and racial/ethnic minority families are woefully scarce, and for the most part have not been analyzed from a pragmatic perspective; we know little about the early language experiences of children in such families and how those experiences may be related to narrative and other discourse skills children bring to kindergarten. Greater depth of information is also needed about the naturally-occurring fantasy talk of children from all backgrounds in interaction with peers and siblings, and in small group as well as dyadic contexts. Mother-child verbal interaction, though indisputably important, is only one of many communicative participant structures most toddlers experience. Talk with fathers and other caregivers, siblings, and familiar peers undoubtedly each provides grist for the mill as toddlers and preschoolers come to understand and verbalize the physical (sometimes not present) world, multiple social worlds, and universe of fantasy worlds. Narrative offers a window on children's emerging understandings of such worlds and on the linguistic skills with which they navigate among them.

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