Emergent Literacy and Comprehension Strategies

By Hillman, Judith | New England Reading Association Journal, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Emergent Literacy and Comprehension Strategies


Hillman, Judith, New England Reading Association Journal


We are fortunate in this issue to have professional texts that focus on two topics at the heart of the reading process: emergent literacy and comprehension strategies. Lesley Mandel Morrow, professor at Rutgers University, contributes to literacy development as her text, in its fourth edition, continues to give teachers and prospective teachers valuable information. Incidentally, Dr. Morrow will be a featured speaker at this fall's NERA Conference in Burlington, Vermont, November 1-3, 2001. (Check out Thursday's schedule!)

Literature-based instruction in science, math, and social studies has a strong proponent in Mildred R. Donoghue from California State University - Fullerton. Basing lessons on recommended books, national standards, and relating imaginative activities to emergent readers; Donoghue creates a new synthesis in reading pedagogy.

Revisiting, reflecting and retelling encourages readers to practice strategies and construct meaning, according to Linda Hoyt. She has created forms that help to shape children's thoughtful responses to literature. Stephanie Harvey, familiar to us as the author of Nonfiction Matters (1998, Stenhouse), joins Anne Goudvis to proclaim their six Strategies That Work. A pedagogical framework called "gradual release of responsibility" allows the strategies to become internalized in readers.

We begin with attention focused on young readers and proceed to strategies for all readers. Morrow, Lesley Mandel. (2001). Literacy Development in the Early Years Helping Children Read and Write (4th Edition). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. ISBN 0 205 30589 X.

As Bernice Cullinan writes in the foreword to this fourth edition of Literacy Development in the Early Years, "Dr. Morrow's treatment of literacy development is on the cutting edge of current knowledge" (p. xi). Truly, Lesley Mandel Morrow is a theorist, a researcher, and a practitioner. Her text presents a balanced approach to early literacy instruction with implications for reading instruction extending into the middle and upper elementary grades.

Organized in ten chapters, this 8 X 11 paperback of 415 pages begins with "Foundations of Literacy Development: Surveying the Past to the Present." A chapter on Assessment is next, followed by family literacy and home/school connections, language and literacy development, developmental trends in reading and writing acquisition, children's literature, developing comprehension, word-study skills, writing development, and finally, classroom organization and management. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote-Sylvia Aston Warner and Thomas Jefferson are two of the sources. Focus questions allow the reader to set purposes, and chapters end with:

* Ideas for the Classroom From the Classroom

* Activities and Questions

* Case Study Activities

Four appendices complete the volume. The first, Children's Literature (p. 362), is remarkable in its variety. Baby books, concept books, a variety of genres, magazines, and books for building sound-- symbol relationships are some of the categories. Five books are listed for every consonant phoneme, long and short vowels, digraphs, and word families. Books related to themes, cultural diversity, and special needs are also listed. The remaining appendices are "Quality Television Programs with Associated Children's Books," "Literacy-Related Computer Software and Web Sites," and "Suggestions for the Instructors." In this last section, Morrow depicts "The Confusabet Lesson" in which she uses a set of symbols representing the alphabet to acquaint adults with the cognitive demands of early literacy. The confusabet symbols are similar to those first used by literacy scholars and professors Paul McKee and William K. Durr in 1966 for the Houghton Mifflin Published Reading Series. The text is replete with pictures, examples of children's work, figures (such as the Running Record Coding System, p.

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