Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Home Literacy Activities and Their Influence on Early Literacy Skills

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Home Literacy Activities and Their Influence on Early Literacy Skills

Article excerpt

Abstract The relationship between the home environments of 66 children and their language and literacy development was examined. After accounting for child age, parent education, and child ability as indexed by scores on a rapid automatized naming task and Block Design of the WPPSI-R, shared book reading at home made no contribution to the prediction of the literacy skills of letter name and letter sound knowledge in kindergarten. In contrast, home activities involving letters predicted modest and statistically significant amounts of variance. For the areas of receptive vocabulary and phonological sensitivity, neither shared book reading nor letter activities were predictive. Follow-up to mid-Grade 2 underscored the importance of letter name/sound knowledge and phonological sensitivity in kindergarten in accounting for individual differences in later achievement in reading comprehension, phonological spelling, and conventional spelling.

Parents and the literacy environments they create in their homes are widely believed to play an important role in the development of children's reading and language skills. Evidence to support this belief has often focused on the time that parents spend reading to their children. As examples, Scarborough, Dobrich, and Hager (1991) found that preschoolers who were read to more and who participated in more solitary book activities at home became better readers by Grade 2 compared to preschoolers with less frequent early literary home experiences. DeBaryshe (1993) observed that mothers who began reading to their children at an earlier age had children with greater receptive language abilities. Moreover, Senechal and Cornell (1993) showed that but a single storybook reading session appears to be sufficient to increase 4- and 5-year-old children's receptive vocabulary. Intervention studies have lent further support to the purported benefits of shared storybook reading. For example, in a study by Swinson (1985), parents who were encouraged to read daily to their nursery school children over a nine-month period had children whose vocabulary scores improved during the project, whereas the scores of children whose parents had not been encouraged to read to them daily were not significantly enhanced.

Through a meta-analysis, Bus, van IJzendoorn, and Pellegrini (1995) concluded that approximately 890 of the variance in reading achievement was explained by the time parents spent reading to their preschoolers. However, its influence is weaker than previously thought, and the adequacy of simply examining the frequency of storybook reading at home has been questioned (Scarborough & Dobrich, 1994). For example, Scarborough et al. (1991) and Dale, Crain-Thoreson, and Robinson (1995) have suggested that child interest or other child factors may influence the frequency of home literacy activities. Further, parent-child reading has also been reported to be a weaker predictor of reading achievement than general demographic variables such as socio-economic status, which are often not taken into account (Scarborough & Dobrich, 1994).

Given the modest correlations found, and the questions that have been raised regarding reading to children, parents listening to their children read or explicitly coaching their children in reading subskills may be more important mechanisms by which parents influence their children's reading achievement. Hewison and lizard (1980) and Hannon (198 found that mothers who reported that they regularly listened to their children read had children with significantly higher scores on reading achievement tests compared to those mothers who did not. Experimental support for these findings comes from the Haringey Project (lizard, Schofield, & Hewison, 1982) which found that 6year-old children of parents who were encouraged to listen to their children read during a two-year intervention, made greater gains in reading achievement than children who received extra teacher help or no help at all; these gains were maintained three years later (Hewison, 1988). …

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