The research reported in this paper was based on the premise that oral and written language development are intertwined. Further, the research was motivated by research demonstrating that narrative ability is an important predictor of school success for older children with language impairment. The authors extended the inquiry to preschool children by analyzing oral narratives and "emergent storybook reading" (retelling of a familiar storybook) by two groups of 20 children (half with, half without language impairment) age 2;4 (years;months) to 4;2. Comparative analyses of the two narrative genres using a variety of language and storybook structure parameters revealed that both groups of children used more characteristics of written language in the emergent storybook readings than in the oral narratives, demonstrating that they were sensitive to genre difference. The children with language impairment were less able than children developing typically to produce language features associated with written language. For both groups, middles and ends of stories were marked significantly more often within the oral narratives than the emergent readings. The children with language impairment also had difficulty with other linguistic features: less frequent use of past-tense verbs in both contexts and the use of personal pronouns in the oral narratives. Emergent storybook reading may be a useful addition to language sampling protocols because it can reveal higher order language skills and contribute to understanding the relationship between language impairment and later reading disability.

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