Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Native American Caregiver–Child Shared Book Reading Interactions: A Descriptive Study and Integrative Review

Guiberson, M., Ferris, K.P. (2022) Native American Caregiver–Child Shared Book Reading Interactions: A Descriptive Study and Integrative Review. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 1-16. ,

Access: FREE/Open Access

Publication year


study description

Non-Experimental Descriptive and Review

core topic(s)

Shared Reading

Population Characteristics

Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Language and Literacy Development , Parent Behaviors and Skills , Parent-Child Relationships/Interactions , Play , Reading Frequency


This study included two parts: a descriptive study followed by an integrative review. The purpose of the study was to converge finding from the descriptive study and summarize relevant findings from existent literature to identify potential culturally responsive early language and literacy intervention strategies for Native American caregivers and their children.


Shared reading in Native American caregiver-child dyads

outcomes evaluated

Culturally responsive early language and literacy intervention strategies


Caregivers who (a) identified as Native American and (b) had a child between 12 and 48 months of age were recruited in collaboration with local early intervention programs, Head Start programs, and an elementary school. Participants were recruited through distribution of flyers, online and radio advertisements, and word of mouth.


This study included a nonexperimental descriptive design and integrative review. The descriptive study analyzed the language behaviors and shared book interactions of Native American caregivers with their young children (N = 21) and included results from a caregiver teaching questionnaire. The integrative review evaluated relevant literature and identified strategies that were described in these sources. These findings were combined with the descriptive study findings to identify promising culturally consistent language and literacy strategies.

sample size

n=21 (caregiver-child dyads)


  • Measure of Caregiver Behaviors During Shared Reading: the Adult-Child Interactive Reading Inventory (ACIRI), an inventory that is used to assess the behaviors and frequency of behaviors of adults during a shared book reading activity.
  • Measure of Caregiver Teaching: 15-item questionnaire administered to Native American caregivers to assess their developmental priorities and teaching styles, including included seven items on frequency of language teaching behaviors and eight items on teaching behaviors.


Caregivers' shared book behaviors were associated with caregivers' vocabulary usage and children's shared book behaviors. Caregivers reported a number of language and teaching strategies they frequently employed; this information was integrated with other sources to identify promising approaches. A total of 20 potential strategies were identified.


The purpose of this study was to describe potential early language and literacy strategies for Native American families. It would be impossible to develop early language interventions to meet the needs of all Native American families and children; thus, this study is a preliminary step in identifying strategies that may be culturally responsive for some families. The integrative review supported the use of shared book reading with young Native American children. Promising language and early literacy strategies included play-based strategies, teaching new words, questioning strategies, using descriptive language, and other language and interaction enhancements. The effectiveness of these strategies should be further evaluated in future research or treatment studies.


First, the families who participated in this study were primarily recruited through flyers in early education environments and word of mouth from other participants and educational staff on the reservation. Therefore, the results of this study may exemplify the behaviors and reported priorities and preferences of families who are highly engaged in the education and development of their children and who have the resources and time to invest in such a project, which may not be characteristics of all Native American families within this community. Second, the use of the ACIRI is not a standardized tool and has not been used when describing behaviors of Native American caregivers during a shared book reading interaction. Common shared book reading behaviors described in this study may not fully represent the interactional behaviors of the studied Native American caregivers. In addition, some of the behaviors from the ACIRI may have not been observed, given the short interactions, the stimuli, and its simplicity; the stimuli itself may have been a factor. The developmental level and range of age of children included in this study varied. Children's age ranged from 14 to 42 months, the average age was 27 months, and most children in the study were between 24 and 35 months of age. This range of ages and developmental levels likely influenced caregivers' behaviors with books. In addition, it is unclear how caregivers' views and beliefs about disabilities, including developmental language disorders, may impact their practices with children, and if these beliefs would influence language and literacy practices. More research on caregivers' perceptions of disabilities is needed to better understand this. Despite these shortcomings, this study can serve as a starting point to begin to understand the behaviors that describe shared book reading with this population. In addition, the families consisted of a small sample of Native American children and caregivers from a reservation located in the Mountain West region of North America. Given this, generalizing the results of these findings to other Native American families, tribes, and communities may be inappropriate due to the heterogeneity that exists among Native American culture, behaviors, and beliefs. Finally, high-quality and well-designed treatment studies need to be conducted to evaluate the strategies described in this study in order to establish their effectiveness. There simply is not enough research describing language and literacy interventions for Native American populations; this knowledge is needed in order to develop culturally tailored literacy and language approaches that will assist families in supporting the early literacy of Native American children.