Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Reading Achievement of Indian Children: Role of Home Literacy Environment

Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Reading Achievement of Indian Children: Role of Home Literacy Environment

Article excerpt

Language and literacy are important functional skills and critical to a long term academic success. Reading is dependent on language abilities, which are developed early in life. Evidence indicates that children with poor reading are more likely to drop out of school and have difficulty in developing skills essential for experiencing life success. This difference in vocabulary development and academic achievement increases socioeconomic disparities (Fernald, Marchman, & Weisleder, 2013; Heckman, 2011). Indeed, young children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of early deprivation and adversity as it impairs lifelong learning, emotional, and physical well being (Malhi, Sidhu, & Bharti, 2014; Sidhu, Malhi, & Jerath, 2010; Shonkoff & Garner, 2012). The absence of opportunities for informal education in the home can lead to early differences in language development, academic achievement, and even intelligence (Hindman, Wasik, & Snell, 2016; Shonkoff & Garner, 2012). Considerable empirical research evidence is available, which demonstrates an association between social and economic disadvantage and poor language and cognitive development in the early school years (Schoon, Parsons, Rush, & Law, 2010, Towson & Gallagher, 2014).

Low-and middle-income countries are particularly at risk for lack of school readiness primarily because of poverty, nutritional deficiencies, and inadequate learning opportunities (Engle et al., 2007; Grantham-McGregor et al., 2007). Data from national reports reveal that underachievement and reading difficulties in school children in India is a persistent problem. The finding that Indian children's reading achievement is steadily declining over time (Pratham Education Foundation, 2014) is even more alarming. For example, while in 2009, 47% of Class 3 students could read Class 1 level text, this declined to 40% in 2013, indicating that more than half of the Class 3 children do not have the reading skills necessary to perform their class level school work.

The home environment provides children their first literacy experiences and it includes access to reading resources, exposure to modeled reading behaviors, and participation in early literacy activities. Burgess, Hecht, and Lonigan (2002) identified three aspects of home literacy environment including demographic characteristics of parents such as income and level of education; parents' literacy habits such as time spent in reading; and parental efforts that directly engage their children in activities that promote reading such as shared book reading, library membership, etc. A home environment, which is supportive of children's language skills by providing literacy resources such as availability of books, activities like reading aloud to children, and trips to the library plays a critical role in laying the foundation for early literacy skills. Research indicates that home literacy environment is important for the development of language, reading, and school readiness skills (Farver, Xu, Lonigan, & Eppe, 2013; Mol & Bus, 2011; Niklas & Schneider, 2015; Rodriguez & Tamis-LeMonda, 2011; Waldfogel, 2012). An important strategy for enhancing early language skills is through shared book reading, as it improves attention, word recognition, reading comprehension, and promotes overall development of language skills (Roy-Charland, Perron, Boulard, Chamberland, & Hoffman, 2015; Sim & Berthelsen, 2014). Reading to the child provides a unique opportunity to be exposed to words, which are not generally encountered in spoken language. For example, Sénéchal, Pagan, Lever and Ouellette (2008) found that shared reading is associated with children's expressive vocabul ary even after controlling parental education and child intelligence. Indeed, shared book reading stimulates more verbal interaction between the child and the parent, than does toy play or other adult-child interactions (Isbell, Sobel, Lindauer, & Lawrence, 2004). …

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