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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Emerging literacy



When does literacy begin and how does a child’s early experiences at home and in the preschool setting effect emerging literacy?

Susan Betke



Introductory Question

When does literacy begin and how does a child’s early experiences at home and in the preschool setting effect emerging literacy? Literacy does not begin when a child begins kindergarten or first grade. The beginning aspects of literacy are fostered within the family unit. “Not only does family literacy further literacy learning, it also strengthens the social aspects of reading and benefits family communication” (Cahill, 2004, p.62). Parents and other primary caregivers are a child’s first teachers. The preschool years are a formative time to promote emerging literacy and build a foundation for school age reading and writing acquisition. The goal of this paper is to ask how and when literacy begins and how best to support emerging literacy. In order to help answer this question a review of literature pertaining to the importance of developing and supporting preschool emerging literacy practices within the home environment and in the preschool classroom environment was examined. The preschool classroom is a bridge between the home environment and the formal kindergarten and first grade classroom. There needs to be a correlation between the goals of the teacher and the goals of the parent. “Children benefit when teachers and parents reinforce the same concepts and ideas” (Darling, 2005, p. 476). This paper will examine the role parents play in their child’s emerging literacy skills before they enter kindergarten and the methods by which they can foster the strengthening of emerging literacy. This paper will address several methods of supporting and developing emerging literacy. These methods include but are not limited to the use of wordless picture books, incorporating oral language and storytelling as a foundation for literacy development, promoting the importance of name writing, the use of parent volunteers in the classroom, and parent teaching of the preschool child.
Literature Review
Where does the value of using wordless picture books to promote literacy development in the young child? “Wordless picture books connect visual literacy (learning to interpret images), cultural literacy (learning the characteristics and expectations of social groups) and literacy with print (learning to read and write language) (Jalongo, Dragich, Conrad, and Zhang, 2002, p. 168). It is important that educators and parents select quality picture
books that are developmentally appropriate. The best choices deal with concepts that incorporate familiar scenes and objects for the child. Wordless picture books are useful in teaching the very young child or the child with special needs the functional use of books.
A child’s confidence in handling books and the promotion of storytelling can be addressed easily with the use of wordless picture books. Wordless picture books are not widely used by parents and educators alike. “One obstacle was the fact that many teachers were relatively unfamiliar with the genre and did not know how to select quality wordless books (Jalongo, Dragich, Conrad, and Zhang, 2002, p.170). Wordless picture books can be used in conjunction with The Narrative Comprehension of Picture Books. “Developed by Paris and Paris (2001) the Narrative Comprehension of Picture Books is one of the first measures of children’s narrative understanding that not only can be used with a variety of children’s books but also provides scoring rubrics as well as evidence of reliability and validity and can be used by teachers and researchers” (Stahl, Yaden, 2004, p. 147). Once the value of using wordless picture books is understood and optimized their use will greatly benefit the promotion of emerging literacy in young children.
Listening and talking are the forerunners of literacy. The development of oral language is crucial to the development of reading and writing skills. “What children learn from listening and talking contributes to their ability to read and write, and vice versa” (Strickland, 2004. p. 86). Parents need to be educated on the importance of developing a diverse and rich vocabulary in their child. Young children that are exposed to new and different words regularly are given a stronger vocabulary base needed to succeed in future literacy settings. Storytelling is a productive way for children to exercise their oral skills in a social setting that promotes emerging literacy. “ The use of storytelling with young children supports early literacy development and expands the creative literacy potential in young children (Speaker, Taylor, and Kamen, 2004, p.4). Storytelling allows for a child to interact with language. It provides opportunities for that child to develop practice with new vocabulary and syntax rules in written and oral language. By exposing children to storytelling language development can be encouraged. The organization skills acquired by a child that is exposed to storytelling directly enhances that child’s ability to organize narrative necessary for fostering emerging literacy skills.
A child’s name may be the first printed word that a child recognizes. At a young age children see themselves as separate and different from others. The written name of that child is a distinct label that gives a child a way to classify himself. “One’s own name is arguably the most meaningful of all experiences young children have with print” (Haney,
2002, p. 101). When a child is in a preschool setting their name in print is ever present. Seeing ones name in print gives meaning to print and is a beginning to emergent literacy. A child’s written name gives that child an opportunity to identify with and feel a connection to the written word. “A child’s name is a particular meaningful category that provides identification within their family and a foundation for the emerging multifaceted dimensions of self” (Haney, 2002, p.101). A child’s name has meaning to that child. Using that name to begin promoting meaning to a written form of that name is a productive way to introduce the function of print to a child. Names are an important label both within the home and in a school setting and the written form of a child’s name should be abundant in both settings.
“The process of becoming literate begins long before a child enters a formal education environment” (Haney, Hill, 2004 p. 215). Parents are a child’s first teacher. Some parents feel ill at ease formally teaching their child but others specifically try to initialize some form of direct teaching methods with their young child to promote their emerging literacy skills. Parent teaching of literacy skills are a vital factor in a child’s literacy development. Parents and their method of teaching literacy skills to their child are a fundamental part of the home-school connection to facilitate a child’s literacy growth. Parents as teachers can be a link to natural real world experiences that build on oral language and facilitate the association to print uses of that language. “Thus, children provided with frequent opportunities to explore the connection between oral language and print use experiences to construct for themselves knowledge about sound/symbol relationships and alphabet
knowledge for reading decoding” (Haney, Hill, 2004, p. 244). Many parents do not purposefully provide alphabetic tuition to their children but some tuition or teaching of
the alphabet and its meaning and sounds takes place informally in the home. This is seen when children have some knowledge of the alphabet even with no teaching of it. “However, the fact that many children know the names of letters before they go to school would suggest that some tuition in reading skills does take place” (Wood, 2004, p. 5). Parent involvement with their child’s education need not only be limited to the home setting. Parents as volunteers in their child’s school environment are beneficial to promoting emerging literacy. “Considerable research indicates that parent involvement in education is an important component in school success and is correlated with increased attendance and achievement and fewer behavioral problems” (Porter, Johnson, 2004, p. 235). Parents are essential to the early foundation of literacy skills in their children but direct teaching of skills to their child is not as important as providing a rich home environment that fosters literacy. “The experiences, attitudes, and materials pertaining to literacy that a child encounters and interacts with at home compose a child’s home literacy environment” (Roberts, Jurgens, Burchinal, & Graham, 2005. p.346). A child’s overall home literacy environment is a strong predictor of their language and literacy skills. Educators of young children especially preschool children are responsible for educating parents as well as children of the importance of the environment that is provided to a child in order to promote and maintain emerging literacy.
Conclusion
Literacy is an ongoing process that begins early in life. Children need to be exposed to a literature and literacy rich environment both in the home and in the early school settings. The review of the literature in this research paper shows how important the connections between the home and school settings are. Parents and teachers have opportunities to develop emerging literacy skills in children at an early stage in their language development. The time before a child enters kindergarten or first grade provides for an opportunity to set a foundation for literacy skills and an opportunity to address any areas of language development that may need early intervention. Acknowledgment of the importance of the preschool years and the role parents, teachers, and the environment play in emerging literacy is a valuable subject of review and research. Within the home and the more formal preschool setting many strategies can be implemented to promote emerging literacy. These can include but not be limited to the use of wordless picture books, the incorporation of environmental print in the classroom or home environment and the promotion of oral language skills using various means such as storytelling. The development of a child’s oral language need not ever be overlooked when building their literacy foundation. Storytelling is a skill that children and some teachers need to be taught that is an important skill to possess. Storytelling can take place informally in the home in a spontaneous manner or more formally in a structured format within a preschool setting. Either environment or a combination is ideal for supporting storytelling as a method to promote and develop emerging literacy skills.



References



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