A psychogenetic perspective on children's understanding about letter associations during alphabet book readings

David B Yaden, Laura B. Smolkin, Laurie Macgillivray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations


This study examined two preschoolers’ understandings about letter associations during repeated alphabet book read alouds with their parents from a Piagetian perspective. Data for the present investigation was excerpted from a larger study in which six preschoolers, ages 3 1/2 to 4 1/2, read seven picture storybooks and two alphabet books three times each in a multiple baseline design over approximately a 30-day period. Applying the principles of Piaget's clinical or inquiry method, a qualitative analysis of the two children's responses to their parents’ prompts or use of the formulaic phrase “—– is for —–” showed that neither one associated representative letters with the beginning sounds of names or other appropriate words. Letters were either associated indiscriminately with objects in the pictures or with words in the oral dialogue, irrespective of their beginning sounds. A psychogenetic theory of alphabet book reading is postulated where children first associate letters with any pictured object, then with selected words in the oral text, and only later with initial sound segments. Implications for research and practice regarding the slow evolution of metalinguistic differentiation at the phoneme level and the influence of genre on parent-child discourse are offered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-68
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Literacy Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this