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Children's language experiences in the first two years of life are inextricably connected with their current and future language and literacy development. Research has shown that mother–child shared reading of picture books is a practice that can promote this development. Little is known, however, about the shared reading experiences of infants attending early childhood education and care centres. This naturalistic study analysed the reading experiences of 10 infants observed during a three-hour period as they and their educators went about their typical activities in their early childhood education and care centres. Drawing on Halliday's systemic functional linguistic theory, which proposes a non-arbitrary relationship between language use and features of the material setting, this study analysed two aspects of the infants' shared reading experiences: the tenor (roles and relationships) realised in the educators' use of speech function, and the field (the topic or subject matter) realised in the vocabulary used. The manner in which these contextual variables are realised in the adult–child talk during shared reading affects the pedagogical potential of this practice. The findings reveal that the infants had little opportunity to initiate or participate in book-focused interactions with their educators, with implications for their language and literacy learning opportunities.
- shared reading
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