Early Literacy (page 4)
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
The work of Marie Clay, a New Zealand educator, heralded changes in the way researchers and teachers viewed early reading. Her studies indicated that children know a great deal about reading and writing before they come to school, and they are able to experiment with and apply their knowledge in various ways (Clay, 1975).
A Balanced Approach
In sum, current research reveals that “learning to read and write is a complex, multifaceted process that requires a wide variety of instructional approaches” (Neuman et al., 2000, p. 39). The debates over which method of teaching reading may be put to rest by the studies show that no single method is best for all children all the time. Many teachers now incorporate a “balance” of research-based strategies, believing this to be the most effective way to approach literacy development (Tompkins, 2003). There are three basic principles in a balanced approach to literacy: (a) developing skills and strategies while nurturing a love of literature, (b) varying instructional approaches to fit the needs of the children, and (c) immersing children in a variety of reading materials (Fitzgerald, 1999). The balanced approach to literacy instruction incorporates the best in research, stresses the role of the teacher as an informed decision maker, allows the teacher flexibility in building a literacy program, and is based on a comprehensive view of literacy that includes reading and writing (Spiegel, 1998). Cambourne’s Conditions for Literacy Development
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