Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Family Consumer Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Ann M. Berghout Austin


Ann M. Berghout Austin


Kathleen Walsh Piercy


Sarah K. Clark


Lori A. Roggman


Randall M. Jones


Many children have insufficient early literacy experiences and fail to obtain proficient emergent literacy before they enter kindergarten. Reading to young children has been positively linked to improving their emergent literacy. Numerous factors influence how engaged children are while being read to including the adult’s prosody, receptive vocabulary, and the home literacy environment. Using a quantitative quasiexperimental design, this study sought to understand the association among prosody, child engagement (emotional, cognitive, behavioral-eye, and behavioral-body), receptive vocabulary, and the home literacy environment. The sample included 76 3-5 year-old children from local child care centers and their parents. To understand the relationship between prosody and engagement, children were randomly assigned to watch a story with typical or high prosody. Emotional, cognitive, behavioral-eye, and behavioral-body engagement measures were used to understand how engaged children were in the story. Children’s receptive vocabulary was assessed, and parents completed a home literacy survey. The moderating effects of receptive vocabulary and the home literacy environment (i.e., how much time parents spent reading to children and children’s TV time) between prosody and each type of engagement was examined. Children’s engagement did not differ between typical and high prosody stories. A statistically significant relationship was found between the cognitive and behavioral-eye r(74) = .44, p < .01, cognitive and behavioral-body r(74) = .30, p < .01, and behavioral-eye and behavioral-body engagement measures r(74) = .72, p < .01. Receptive vocabulary and the home literacy environment did not moderate the relationship between story prosody and any type of engagement.