The Role of Family Literacy Environments in Promoting Young Children's Emerging Literacy Skills

The Role of Family Literacy Environments in Promoting Young Children's Emerging Literacy Skills

The Role of Family Literacy Environments in Promoting Young Children's Emerging Literacy Skills

The Role of Family Literacy Environments in Promoting Young Children's Emerging Literacy Skills

Synopsis

The research collected in this new issue seeks to identify which aspects of family literacy environments promote children's emerging literacy and which experiences in the home facilitate the development of children's literacy skills. This issue presents an innovative model of emergent literacy in which written language, at all levels of specificity, is at the center of the construct of emergent literacy. In addition, studies presented in this issue highlight the association between child and family literacy across age and socioeconomic background. These studies demonstrate the specificity of associations between family literacy environments and young children's emerging literacy skills, showing that the particular type of literacy interaction influences the particular literacy skill being developed. This is the 92nd issue of the Jossey-Bass series New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development.

Excerpt

Victoria Purcell Gates

Although some may consider children's developing oral
language as key to literacy development, the author
argues that it is children's development of knowledge of
written language that is important. This has significant
implications for home and school environments and
activities.

There once was a brave knight and a beautiful lady. They went on
a trip, a dangerous trip! They saw a little castle in the distance.
They went to it. A mean, mean, mean hunter was following them,
through the bushes at the entrance of the little castle. As he
creeped out of the bushes, he thought what to do. As the draw
bridge was opened, they could easily get in.

This remarkable piece of language was produced by a five-year-old kindergarten girl. She was not reading these sentences from a book, nor was she telling me a story. What she was doing was pretending to read orally from a wordless picture book. In the process, she was also revealing a type of language knowledge that she possessed, revealing linguistic competence through linguistic performance embedded in a congruent pragmatic context. I had asked her to pretend to read to a doll—she was the mommy, and the doll was her little girl. This little girl did not talk like this, nor did any of the other thirty-nine children in this particular research sample (PurcellGates, 1988). I know this because I compared the way they used language when pretend-reading to the way they used language when telling me a personal narrative about an important event (like their birthday parties).

The language these children used when they pretended to read was, according to my linguistic analysis, the language of storybooks. The fact that it was rendered orally did not make it oral language. Rather, it was (pretend) written language read aloud. As such, I contend, it is an important facet of the . . .

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