Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Life Sciences

Major Professor

RaMonda Horton-Ikard

Committee Members

Ilsa Schwarz, Lori A. Swanson, Susan Benner


This study involved the examination of parental beliefs and practices about early literacy and language and how they influence observed literacy behaviors of their 18-36 month old toddlers. Observed literacy behaviors of the toddlers included phonological awareness (PA) and written language awareness (WLA). The objectives of this study were to (a) characterize the emergent literacy behaviors of toddlers, (b) characterize parental beliefs and practices regarding emergent literacy with respect to toddlers, and (c) determine the relationship between toddlers’ emergent literacy behaviors and their parents’ beliefs and behaviors. Participants included 15 mother-toddler dyads. Mean age of mothers was 35.2 years (SD = 4.0). All mothers qualified as middle- upper socioeconomic status according to Hollingshead (1975). Toddlers were typically developing with a mean age of 26.74 months (SD = 5.3). Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to collect and analyze data. Main data collection measures included: (a) home literacy environment observation; (b) shared reading observations; and (c) parent questionnaire. Data from these measures were coded and organized into emergent literacy domains PA & WLA. Based on pilot findings, only one PA category (i.e., rhyming) was used. Four main WLA categories were used: (a) book conventions; (b) print conventions; (c) letter knowledge; and (d) story grammar. Characteristics of child-directed speech from shared reading interactions were analyzed. These characteristics included: (a) topic initiating utterances; (b) conversation eliciting utterances; (c) behavior directing utterances; (d) mean length of utterance; (e) rate; and (f) length of turn. Results indicated that these mothers engaged in several emergent literacy and language practices with their toddlers. Some of these behaviors were correlated with the observable emergent literacy skills of their children. For example, book convention behaviors of parents were moderately correlated with letter knowledge behaviors of toddlers (r = .549, p = .017). Letter knowledge behaviors of parents were moderately correlated with letter knowledge behaviors of toddlers (r = .524, p = .023). Additionally, length of turn for mothers was moderately correlated with print conventions behaviors of toddlers (r = .618, p = .007). These and other findings will be discussed in regards to their implications for early intervention practices.

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