Our ideas about early literacy have come a long way since the days when young children sat on hard benches in dame schools reading from wooden paddles, called horn books, which hung around their necks. How have our ideas about early literacy developed? What researchers and educators have influenced the way reading and writing are approached today? It is important for teachers who work with young children and their families to be familiar with the history of early literacy as a foundation for current practices.
Arnold Gesell (1925), the leader of the
Reading programs based on
Another current theory of literacy acquisition is the
Social Constructivist Theory
Children who come from homes and communities in which adults model and discuss reading and writing have quite different literacy schemas and practices than do children whose caregivers interact less with the tools and processes of literacy (Heath, 1982). Thus, children’s development of language and literacy processes reflects the total cultural milieu in which they are raised (Bodrova & Leong, 1996). Emma, age 3 1/2 years, for example, has noticed her mother writing letters and bills, which she leaves clothes-pinned to the mailbox on their front porch for the postal carrier. Emma decided one day to write a letter to Elizabeth, her neighbor. Her “letter” was a crayon drawing, which she folded and clipped to the mailbox, just as her mom had done.
The relationship between social context and literacy development is based firmly on language, as supportive adults help young children reach higher levels of learning through scaffolding—assisting young learners with initial attempts at a task (Bodrova & Leong, 1996). When Maggie and her mother read
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