Toddlers as active, competent story weavers: Lexie’s story

Amanda White, Janet S. Gaffney, Helen Hedges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Communication and literacy development of young children is shaped by the nature of social and cultural relationships in everyday situations. Few studies, however, have explored early story experiences encountered by infants and toddlers in naturalistic settings. We argue that personal stories about everyday lived experiences are a vital context for considering how toddlers develop communicative competencies as they participate in these stories within their families and communities. The paper presents selected findings from a qualitative study underpinned by a broad theoretical view of story embedded in a sociocultural, participatory framework. We contend that stories are collaborative, social endeavours in which intersubjectivity is accomplished collectively and multimodally. Evidence is offered of the communicative process enacted by 1-year-old Lexie, her parent, teacher and peers, as they shared meaning together in a personal story about eating lunch. Lexie and her family were participants in a wider study of the story experiences of 1-year-old toddlers, within and across their family home and early childhood settings, in a culturally diverse community of Aotearoa New Zealand. Drawing on multimodal ethnography and video data, findings illustrate how Lexie and her family, teacher and peers actively participated together in the weaving of a shared personal story using verbal, visual and kinaesthetic forms of communication. The study contributes to the field of early childhood literacy by providing unique insights into the potential of everyday personal stories as a valuable context for exploring ways children’s communicative competencies are developed through relationships in family and community settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Early Childhood Literacy
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Early literacy
  • children's meaning making
  • communicative competence
  • culturally responsive pedagogy
  • family involvement
  • intersubjectivity
  • multimodality
  • story

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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