CHILDES English HSLLD Corpus (Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development)

Catherine Snow
Graduate School of Education
Harvard University


David Dickinson
Peabody College
Vanderbilt University


Patton Tabors (1942-2014)
Graduate School of Education
Harvard University


Barbara Alexander Pan (1950-2011)
Graduate School of Education
Harvard University


Participants: 83
Type of Study: naturalistic
Location: USA
Media type: audio unlinked
DOI: doi:10.21415/T5H88H

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Citation information

Of particular interest to the transcripts posted here is the following book which should be cited by researchers using these data:

Additional publications based on this dataset include:

In accordance with TalkBank rules, any use of data from this corpus must be accompanied by at least one of the above references.

Project Description

The Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development, which began in 1987 was a collaborative, longitudinal research endeavor by individuals from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Tufts University, Clark University, and the Education Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts. The primary investigators were Catherine E. Snow and David K. Dickinson. The Research Coordinator was Patton Tabors. The original purpose of the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development was to investigate the social prerequisites to literacy success, identifiable in both home and school interactions, of a group of racially diverse, English-speaking children from low-income families growing up in the Boston area. This group was selected for the study because this population is at increased risk for difficulties with literacy success. While data for this project are still being collected, this directory contains only a subset of transcripts. In particular, only transcripts collected in the home for children at ages 3, 4, and 5, for the book reading, toy play, and child narratives (elicited report) tasks are available. More information about these tasks and about the participants of the study is presented below. Investigators interested in obtaining materials from project that are not presented here are encouraged to contact the PIs from the study. Two additional sets of data, home visit 5 (children were in 2nd grade) and HV7 (children were in 4th grade) are also included in the corpus.


The initial number of participants was 83 American English speaking, racially diverse, preschool age children from low-income families growing up in or around Boston, Massachusetts. Seventy-four of these children were still participating at age 5. The sample consists of 38 girls and 36 boys. Forty-seven children were Caucasian, 16 were African American, six were of Hispanic origin, and five were biracial. (THIS IS RELEVANT ONLY FOR HV1, HV3, & HV3.) By the time children were in 2nd grade 68 children remained in the study. Of the 32 were boys and 36 were girls, and there were 13 African American children, 44 children who were Caucasian, 6 children who were of Hispanic origin and 5 children who were biracial. (Number’s for 4th grade?) At the outset of the study 28 children were living in single-mother households, 40 were living in two-adult households, and six children were living in homes with between three and five adults. Eighteen children were the only children living in the home, 30 had one sibling, 19 and two siblings, and seven children had four or five siblings. Maternal education ranged from 6 years of schooling to college enrollment. Thirty-five percent of mothers had not completed high school, 37% had received only a high school diploma, and 28% had attended some post-high school education. At the first home visit 40% of the families reported an income of less than $10,000, 11% reported on income of $10-15,000, 19% reported an income of $15-20,000, and 21% reported an income of over $25,000. At baseline, thirty-nine percent of these families were receiving AFDC as their main income source, 60% received income through employment (23% from primary caretaker, 37% from spouse), and one family reported child support as the main source of income.


Children were visited once a year in their home from age 3 – 5 and then again when they were in 2nd and 4th grade. Each visit lasted between one and three hours. Home visits consisted of a number of different tasks depending on the year. An outline of the different tasks for each visit is presented below. Short descriptions of each task follow. In addition to the tasks presented below, mothers were also interviewed about their family circumstances on a yearly basis. Because of the sensitive nature of the information contained in the maternal interview these transcripts have not been included in the corpus. Home Visit 1 (HV1): Home Visit 2 (HV2): Home Visit 3 (HV3): Home Visit 5 (HV5): Home Visit 7 (HV7):

Book reading: Mothers and children read The Very Hungry Caterpillar at all three visits, What Next, Baby Bear! During the second and third visit, and Elephant on the third visit. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1979) is a popular children’s book containing colorful illustrations and simple wording. What Next, Baby Bear! by Jill Murphy (1983) is a narrative about a young bear’s imaginary trip to the moon. Animals in the Wild: Elephant by Mary Hoffman (reprinted in 1984) is a nonfiction book containing factual information and color photographs of different kinds of elephants. T

Toy play: Mothers were instructed to play with her child with a selection of toys brought by the investigators. At the first home visit when children were 3 years old the toys included painted blocks, small toy cars, a small tea set, spoons and saucers, a school bus with little people, a toy baby bottle with disappearing milk, a parrot puzzle, toy telephones, and an optiscope. The toys for the second home visit included a different puzzle, dress-up hats and beads, and firefighter hats. The toys for the third home visit included a different puzzle and realistic toy animals. The play sessions lasted up to 40 minutes but were on average 10-15 minutes in length.

Mealtime: At the end of each home visit a blank audiotape was left behind for families to record a typical mealtime interactions. Of the seventy-four participants, 68 returned at least one mealtime recording. Mealtime recordings from all three home visits were obtained for 36 families. Sixty-four home visit one tapes were returned, 45 home visit two tapes were returned, and 51 tapes from the third home visit were returned.

Elicited report: Mothers were asked to encourage their children to tell the investigator about some past experience.

Letter writing: In this task children were asked to write a letter to Eric Carle, the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Experimental task (magnet task)

Mother definitions