Preschoolers’ exposure to the stronger language skills of peers in the preschool classroom can have a small but significant impact on their language learning, according to a study published in the May/June issue of Child Development by researchers at the University of Virginia and Ohio State University.
The researchers note that while much research focuses on the importance of effective teacher interactions with preschoolers for language learning, the results of the study suggest that a successful language intervention for preschoolers with low language skills can also be interaction with children who have higher-level language skills. This should take place, the researchers add, in classrooms where children’s behavior is well managed. The study looked at more than 1,800 preschoolers in more than 450 publicly funded prekindergarten classrooms in 11 states.
The findings are important, the researchers note, because students in public preschool programs tend to be surrounded by peers who have underdeveloped language skills for their age. They suggest that state preschool programs be designed to include children with mixed language abilities, including those with higher-than-average abilities.
A version of this article appeared in the May 20, 2009 edition of Education Week