How we come to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings when we are young (our theory of mind) has been a question of interest to researchers for many years. However, there is little research that examines this development in settings and relationships important to young children beyond the home and family. This case study was situated in an early childhood (EC) preschool setting and explored the question of how might shared storybook reading (SSR) contribute to children’s developing theory of mind? 40 preschool children and 4 early childhood educators were observed as they engaged in their usual practice of shared storybook reading. The conversations that occurred during shared reading were recorded and analysed using a qualitative approach. Findings show the event of SSR to be a social practice where children are active contributors, and one that holds strong potential for children to enhance their knowledge about the social world. SSR can be a rich source of conversation involving multiple perspectives and reference to the thoughts and feelings of others. Individual children’s theory of mind knowledge will vary across the group situation and (EC) Educators use of causal questioning about the thoughts and feelings of storybook characters may provide a salient opportunity for children to exercise and enhance their theory of mind abilities. Possible implications for early childhood practice are discussed.
University of Newcastle Research Higher Degree Thesis