Introduction

Narratives are ubiquitous forms of oral discourse which represent shared cultural understandings of our human experience in the world (Bruner, 1986). Narratives provide an important means for translating experiences into language for purposes of communication (Berman & Slobin, 1994), for representing them in memory (Nelson, 1986), and for structuring and supplementing them with interpretations (Labov & Waletsky, 1967). Narratives emerge in parent-child conversations with children as young as 2 years of age (Eisenberg, 1985) but, as we will argue in this chapter, precursors to narrative development can be identified in the language exchanges of even younger children. Discussions of a joint focus of attention between 20-month-old children and their parents lead naturally into elaborations that introduce nonpresent elements—connections to the past, plans for the future, and memories of related objects or events. While these discussions are not narrative in the strict sense, they provide the child an opportunity to deal with some of the complexities of narrative. Another facilitative activity during early mother-child conversation is fantasy play, a context for learning about plot, character, and other narrative elements. Variability in children's opportunities for participation in discussions of joint fo cus and fantasy may help explain individual differences in later skills. In this chapter we explore how it is that children develop skills with two narrative genres, personal narrative and fantasy story, and why it is that some children excel at one or the other, some at both, and some at neither. We will argue that individual differences in narrative skills emerge at least in part from children's early capacities to engage in discussions of a joint focus of attention, typically a toy, a picture, or an ongoing activity, with adults. In the sections that follow, we describe a social interactionist theoretical framework for understanding narrative development. We then define and illustrate children's capacities with two important narrative genres at 5 years of age and present data about children's participation at 20 and

30 months in talk about the nonpresent and about fantasy. Finally, we turn to exploring relationships between children's early experiences with social interaction and their later narrative attainments.

The study of children's narratives encompasses a relatively recent but vast and varied body of research that illustrates the multifunctionality of narrative discourse in children's development. Narratives are ubiquitous forms of oral discourse found in a variety of contexts within and across cultures and seem to constitute a universal means of making sense of both the physical and social world. Following the narrative patterns of their specific communities and families, children produce narratives when they translate past experiences into language, retell tales previously told to them, or improvise fantasy stories. Narratives are also present in everyday life as they are told to children, told to others in the presence of children, and coconstructed in spontaneous adult-child conversations. Over time children are expected to produce increasingly autonomous narratives to achieve effective communication in situations with a passive audience, e.g., sharing time in classrooms or explaining the development of one's symptoms to a physician (Ochs & Capps, 2001). Progress toward becoming a skilled narrator relates to multiple aspects of a child's development, including the formation of self-concept, autobiographical memory, socio-emotional cognition, and literacy acquisition. Previous research has demonstrated that narratives communicate culturally shared values, beliefs and esthetic notions, and shape children's development toward particular ways of constructing identity, ways of remembering, ways of thinking and feeling, and ways of talking.

Drawing from theoretical conceptions that define the self as constructed in interaction with others (Gergen, 1994; Mead, 1934), from developmental theories that place language-mediated social practices at the core of children's social and cognitive advances (Vygotsky, 1934/1986), and from a view of language conceived as both the result of and the principal medium for transferring cultural practices (Gumperz & Hymes, 1972; Ochs & Schieffelin, 1984), developmental researchers have explored the prominent role of narratives in communicating cultural values that shape self-identity (Bruner, 1986; Miller, 1982; Miller, Potts, Fung, Hoogstra, & Mintz, 1990; Nelson, 1989, 2000, 2001; Stern, 1989). For instance, research has documented that in the United States, European-American mothers tend to highlight children's positive qualities in their stories, while Chinese mothers tend to portray the child as transgressor, thus utilizing narratives to emphasize moral lessons. A similar contrast is reported between Taiwanese and European-American families, with the additional finding that parents' past misdeeds are considered highly reportable by European-Americans because of their humor and potential to humanize parents, but are never narrated by Taiwanese parents, who view these situations as diminishing their authority (Miller, Sandel, Liang, & Fung, 2001). Children come to understand who they are in these narratives exchanges "by virtue of hearing how others portray and respond to them" (Miller, Mintz, Hoogstra, Fung, & Potts, 1992, p. 48). Children's exposure to and production of narratives are highlighted as providing a major source for the formation of an "enculturated self" (Nelson, 2000) and for the construction of a "continuing self" with a past and a future (Nelson, 2001). Children construct narratives, even in solitary contexts, to organize the flow of their own experiences in connection to others (Bruner, 1990; Nelson, 1989).

Narrative research has also contributed to our understanding of an area intimately linked to the study of self-formation: the development of autobiographical memory. Even though the idea that memory is related to language is not a new one (Bartlett, 1932), only recently has the social interaction model of autobiographical memory provided a theoretical framework in which the child's production of narratives is at the core of children's ability to retain experiences that are verbally accessible (Fivush & Hudson, 1990; Nelson, 1989, 1990, 1996; Pillemer & White, 1989). According to this theory, narratives offer children an external model of memory-cueing which they later internalize and reinstate. Snow (1990) illustrates how parents highlight—via narrative exchanges with children—which aspects of experience are reportable, and by inference, worth remembering. Different parental styles of talking about the past have been documented (Fivush, 1991; Hudson, 1990; Reese, Haden, & Fivush, 1993) and seem to have far-reaching effects on how children structure their own memories (Hudson, 1993). Studies show that children recall more information about events they have previously talked about with their parents (Hudson, 1993; Tessler & Nelson, 1994). Furthermore, increasing evidence supports the claim that memory is shaped in different ways according to the cultural practices of a child's community (Nelson & Fivush, 2000). Cultural differences among U.S., Korean, and Chinese children have been identified in the frequency of talk about the past and the age of earliest memories (Mullen, 1994; Mullen & Yi, 1995), as well as in the frequency with which specific components such as descriptions, internal state terms, and self-references are included in children's recollections (Han, Leichtman, & Wang, 1998). In narrating past experiences children learn not only how to structure narratives, but they also learn how to remember their own pasts.

Narratives are also relevant for children's emotional development and adaptation to their socio-cultural context. When telling a story, narrators report not only events, but also how they feel about events (Labov & Waletzky, 1967). Thus, parent-child coconstructions of narratives provide an avenue for discussing and learning about emotions (Fivush, 1991; Oppenheim, Emde, & Wamboldt, 1996). Indeed, the understanding of complex emotions has been linked to children's use of internal states in narrative discourse (Hughes & Dunn, 1998). Moreover, Oppenheim and his colleagues suggest that narratives contribute to the regulation of emotions, as children's emotionally coherent narratives are associated with fewer behavior problems (Oppenheim, Nir, Warren, & Emde, 1997).

School is a particular context in which the mastery of narrative discourse is of central importance in many communities. On the one hand, narrative mastery is positively associated with academic performance, in particular literacy (Bishop & Edmundson, 1987; Feagans & Applebaum, 1986; Roth, Speece, Cooper, & de la Paz, 1996; Snow, 1983). In learning to narrate, children learn the decontextual-ized features of language necessary to report real or fictional events removed from the "here and now." Many of these decontextualized linguistic features are shared with written discourse and therefore facilitate children's transition into literacy (Hemphill & Snow, 1996; Snow, 1983). Kindergartners who are skilled narrators of highly elaborated fictional stories show superior listening comprehension and print-awareness skills compared to kindergartners with less developed narrative abilities (Speece, Roth, Cooper, & de la Paz, 1999). Preschoolers' elaborative contributions to mother-child coconstruction of narratives predict story comprehension in kindergarten (Reese, 1995). On the other hand, narratives could also be a source of miscommunication. Assumptions about appropriate language use and patterns of structuring narrative differ even among people who speak what is officially considered the same language. An increasing body of literature documents culturally-specific characteristics of narrative structure and narrative practices (Blum-Kulka & Snow, 1992; Heath, 1983; Melzi, 2000; Michaels, 1981; Minami, 2001; Minami & McCabe, 1991; Peterson & McCabe, 1983). Adaptation to the school discourse style is a task faced by all children, but the transition is easier for children whose discourse style is closer to that of school (Cazden, 1988; Heath, 1983; Michaels, 1981).

Given narratives' ubiquity in casual face to face conversation as well as in more institutional forms of discourse (lessons, medical histories, interviews), it is not surprising that children typically can tell fairly autonomous fictional and personal stories by about age 5. While developmental profiles of children's narrative performance provide useful summaries of normative development (Botvin & Brian Sutton-Smith, 1977; Hudson & Shapiro, 1991; Peterson & McCabe, 1983), it is also important to highlight the enormous range of skill with which children as young as age 5 engage in these various narrative activities. Differences in children's narrative skill have been shown to be associated with cultural practices and parental discourse style (Blum-Kulka & Snow, 1992; Minami, 2001; Peterson & McCabe, 1992). In this study we explore children's early pragmatic abilities as another dimension contributing to distinct levels of narrative performance. The cognitive, social, emotional and academic correlates of narrative discourse further highlight the importance of this undertaking.

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