Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Literacy Curricula and Assessment: A Survey of Early Childhood Educators in Two States

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Literacy Curricula and Assessment: A Survey of Early Childhood Educators in Two States

Article excerpt

Research has consistently demonstrated the importance of early literacy instruction, as these skills are the developmental precursors to conventional reading. In this study, 215 early childhood educators in two states responded to a survey regarding early literacy curricula and assessment. Results indicated that most teachers used either a commercially available general or literacy specific curriculum, despite the fact that most of these programs do not have adequate research support to document effectiveness. Furthermore, the majority of teachers reported use of teacher-made assessments to monitor student progress in these curricula. Generally, teacher-made assessments have been proven psychometrically unsound, which may indicate that they are not accurate indicators of student progress. Given the importance of early literacy skill acquisition, future research should be conducted to explore the efficacy of different commercially available curricula and to identify the most valid means for monitoring student progress.

Keywords: early literacy, curricula, assessment

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As evidenced in randomized control trials and longitudinal studies, a quality preschool education can enrich a child's development. Early school experiences provide children with daily learning and play opportunities that can enhance the development of cognitive and social concepts and skills (Sylva, Taggart, Siraj-Blatchford, Totsika, Ereky-Stevens, Gilden, & Bell, 2007). Specifically, research has shown that the preschool years are critical to the development of early literacy skills that will lay the foundation for future reading skills and help prevent problems from developing (Molfese, Modglin, Beswick, Neamon, Berg, Berg, Molnar, 2006; Pullen & Justice, 2003; Scarborough, 1998). Thus, it is important to focus on the early literacy skills that should be taught in a preschool classroom and how they are best presented.

Lonigan (2006b) identified the three most salient predictors of future reading success in young children as oral language, phonological processing skills, and print knowledge, thereby suggesting areas for instructional focus. From the time of birth up until age 5 to 6-years, young children typically make astounding gains in language development. As they grow, children learn to produce the sounds that comprise words (phonological development), gain understanding of the meanings of thousands of words, and use language correctly.

Oft times, the significance of oral language, or vocabulary, is underestimated in the reading process because it is not a prerequisite for successful 1st or 2nd grade reading, when the instructional process is focused on decoding (Biemuller, 2006). It is not until approximately 3rd grade that early vocabulary becomes a significant predictor of comprehension, as the focus shifts from decoding to understanding content read. However, most problems with vocabulary and, hence comprehension, develop in the early literacy years when children are learning vocabulary at astonishing rates. During this time, children can come to differ by several thousand root-word meanings and this gap often is not closed in later years (Biemuller, 2006). As such, it is important for early childhood educators to provide myriad opportunities for vocabulary development in their classrooms.

A second predictor of later reading success identified by Lonigan (2006b) was early phonological processing skills. Phonological processing involves those areas that require sensitivity to and manipulation of the sounds in oral language and includes three interrelated clusters of skills, phonological awareness, phonological access to lexical store, and phonological memory (Lonigan, 2006a). Phonological awareness refers to the child's ability to detect and manipulate the sound structure of oral language, including syllables, rhymes, and phonemes. Phonological access to lexical store is the efficiency of retrieval of phonological codes from memory and in school-age children, it is typically measured as the rate at which one can name an array of letters or digits. …

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