Children's theory of mind referencing and contribution to discourse during different book sharing contexts in preschool

Marie Lyne Smadja*, Margalit Ziv, Dorit Aram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theory of Mind (ToM), defined as children's understanding of their own and others' minds, is a foundational social cognitive skill. Research showed the important role of adults' conversations during book sharing, focusing on mental states, for ToM development. Additionally, children's mental-state talk is rarely studied. The current study focused on several children's discourse characteristics: mental-state terms, references to false beliefs, questions, reactions and initiations, between a small group and their preschool teacher during different contexts of book sharing at preschool: (1) Storybook reading; (2) Storybook reconstruction, when teachers reconstructed the story with the children based on a wordless version of the same book; (3) Storybook telling of a wordless book based only on illustrations. In all three conditions the teachers received the book and read/looked through it prior to the interactions with the children. Our findings showed that children's discourse characteristics appeared more during telling than reconstruction and reading, and more during reconstruction than during reading. Our discussion highlights the particular contribution of wordless book contexts, without sticking to text, for enhancing children's mental-state references and their active participation in discussions on books with preschool teachers and peers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-343
Number of pages11
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Initiatives
  • Preschool children
  • Questions
  • Storybook reading
  • Storybook telling
  • Theory of mind


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