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Parent Reading Style Impacts Children's Social Skills According to New Study

According to a new study, how parents read stories to their 4- and 5-year-old children may directly impact how successful their children are at social interaction. The study found that there was a strong relationship between the amount of attention parents paid to the emotions, desires, and thoughts of story characters and children's understanding of the way internal states are related to behavior. This type of understanding has been linked to successful social skills, such as the ability to make friends and resolve conflict, in both younger and older children. Furthermore, children whose parents strongly emphasized these aspects of the story were more likely to recall these details of the story later on.

Lead researcher Joelle Greene, a visiting professor of psychology at Pomona College and The Claremont Graduate University, presented her findings at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development this past April in Tampa, Florida.

"Storytelling may represent a largely unexplored domain for studying the transmission of social skills from adults to children," explains Greene. "While educational and psychological researchers have long focused on the benefits of reading and constructing stories with adults and the academic benefits are robust and well-documented, we haven't paid much attention to the other types of learning that may take place in this setting. Our preliminary findings are very exciting and confirm what we've suspected: that parents teach their children about more than just literacy when they read together."

This summer, Greene and her research assistants are expanding the research project to include storytelling between grandparents and their 4- to 5-year-old grandchildren. "We think grandparents may bring a unique perspective to storytelling with young children based on their life-experience and historical perspective, " comments Greene. "We're very eager to see how grandparents approach storytelling and how it compares to the approach parents use." This phase of the project was conceived and designed by Shana Yu, a member of the class of 2006, in collaboration with Professor Greene. Yu and Greene received an Irvine Foundation Grant from Pomona College to conduct the study this summer.

The Pomona College Storytelling Project is seeking grandparents with regular (at least monthly) contact with grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 5 years to participate in the study on the campus of Pomona College in Claremont. The study consists of approximately one hour of activities, including storytelling, a vocabulary measure for children and some short questionnaires. In exchange for their participation, families received a $25 dollar gift certificate to a local bookstore. To receive more information, or to arrange an appointment, please call (909) 607-8217 or (909) 607-3758, or email

Pomona College, one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, offers a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Founded in 1887, its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.