Abuela Knows Best

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  • Title: Abuela Knows Best: Learning from Latino Grandmothers when Supporting Young Children’s Narrative Skills
  • Author(s): Raquel Plotka, Xiao-lei Wang
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Humanities Education
  • Keywords: Latino Children, Narrative Development, Grandmothers, Participatory Styles
  • Volume: 16
  • Issue: 3
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2327-0063 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2457 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-0063/CGP/v16i03/9-24
  • Citation: Plotka, Raquel, and Xiao-lei Wang. 2018. "Abuela Knows Best: Learning from Latino Grandmothers when Supporting Young Children’s Narrative Skills." The International Journal of Humanities Education 16 (3): 9-24. doi:10.18848/2327-0063/CGP/v16i03/9-24.
  • Extent: 16 pages


Young children’s development of narrative skills is predictive of language and literacy gains, and caregivers play a key role in this process. In the past several decades, the time children spend with grandparents has increasingly grown, especially among Latino families living in the US. Yet relatively few studies have assessed the role of grandmothers in children’s language development. Latino caregivers use a participatory style when engaging young children in narratives. Nevertheless, within a cultural group, there are often generational differences in the way caregivers engage children in conversation. This study examined whether Latino grandmothers differed from mothers in their strategies used to elicit conversations about past events with young children. Twenty children of Latino background were observed in conversations with their mothers and with their grandmothers. Naturalistic adult-child conversations were observed, video-recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to compare conversations with mothers to conversations with grandmothers. The results show that conversations with grandmothers were significantly more likely to include participatory strategies when engaging children in narratives than conversations with mothers. As a result, children engaged in more complex narratives about past events with grandmothers than with mothers. Implications for practice and further research are discussed.