School Literacies Meet Home Literacies?

By Kervin, Lisa | Practically Primary, October 2011 | Go to article overview

School Literacies Meet Home Literacies?


Kervin, Lisa, Practically Primary


Let me tell you about Aidan. Aidan was born 6 weeks early on 27 May 2007. His pediatrician warned that Aidan would most likely be delayed in meeting his milestones; physically there were some delays in the first year but his language showed no signs of impairment. Aidan has been read to multiple times every day since the day he was born. At the age of 1 he had favourite books and a good working vocabulary. At the age of 2 he displayed strong book conventions and began to use technology in his home to create podcasts (with the help of his dad) to 'talk' to his grandparents and aunts while he and his family relocated overseas for a time.

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As a 3 year old Aidan began to notice the detail within text. He would spend extended periods circling every "A" (for Aidan) he could find in the newspaper. At this time he also discovered the joy of writing and would ill his magnadoodle, chalkboard and countless pieces of paper with 'stories'. As a 4 year old Aidan delighted his family with puppet shows (real and virtual), authoring his own books (a series on his precious teddy 'Harry'), and reading aloud well-known and much-loved stories to his younger brother Owen. At this time he also began asking about school and when he would be able to go. He arranged with his aunt (a Primary teacher) to come by after school and show him how to read. Aidan, at 4 years and 8 months for the start of the 2012 school year, is eligible to attend Kindergarten.

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At this time of year, parents of pre-schoolers all over Australia are asking themselves (and anyone else who will listen!), is my child ready for school next year? I must confess. I am one of those parents. Aidan is my son.

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I'm in an interesting dilemma. I think I have fairly good knowledge of schools and how they work, and for years I've advised parents about how "ready" their child is or isn't for school. Why is it then that I'm second-guessing my expertise now as I think about my own son and what his 2012 future as a Kindergarten student might look like? The truth is, my question is not "is my son ready for school?" it's "is school ready for my son?"

I was provided with a checklist from our preschool (where Aidan goes two days per week) to see how "ready" Aidan was for school. Let me share some of the questions.

1. Can my child listen to instructions and then follow them? Children need these skills to function in class, to keep up with the teacher and with their peers.

2. Can he recite the alphabet and count? Most kindergarten teachers assume that children have at least a rudimentary familiarity with the alphabet and numbers though these subjects will be covered as part of the kindergarten curriculum.

3. Can he hold a pencil? Cut with scissors? He will need these fine motor skills to begin working on writing the alphabet and to keep up with classroom tasks.

4. Does he show an interest in books? Does he try to "read" a book by telling a story based on the pictures?

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While I know that Aidan is able to do these things, what if his teacher doesn't notice that he can? How accurately will initial assessments of Aidan capture the richness of his home literate experiences? Where's the question about his vocabulary? His favourite books? His experience with digital text? His ability to engage with imaginative play?

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