The Critical Role of Family Setting for Emergent Learning in Infants and Toddlers
The family setting plays a critical role in providing literacy-related experiences for infants’ and toddlers’ observation and exploration. Home environments where young children have shown evidence of emergent literacy knowledge can be characterized by the following nine characteristics. These characteristics highlight the ways in which the contexts of literacy and the interaction with adults are associated with children’s early literacy transactions. A summary of these nine characteristics is located in the list below.
Characteristics of Home Environments Associated with Infants' and Toddlers' Emergent Literacy
- Parents value literacy.
- Parents use reading and writing in their daily activities.
- Parents engage children in frequent book sharing.
- Parents encourage children's early literacy explorations
- Parents respond positively to children's questions.
- Parents value children's early attempts to draw or write.
- Parents engage children in frequent conversations.
- Parents are sensitive to their children's developmental level and prior experiences.
- Parents use scaffolding and mediation.
Parents Value Literacy
Parents who expressed pleasure in reading and writing were more likely to encourage their children’s interest in books (Bus, 2002). In contrast, parents who did not enjoy reading and writing activities themselves were less likely to encourage reading activities for their children. Additionally, when they shared story books with their children, their interactions involved less complex discussions and showed less consideration of children’s developmental levels. For example, some mothers simply read the text and did not appear to consider their child’s ability to comprehend what was being read.
Parents Use Reading and Writing in Their Daily Activities
In homes associated with emergent literacy of infants and toddlers, there were many opportunities for children to observe their parents’ interactions with written language on a daily basis (Baghban, 1984; Crago & Crago, 1983; Lujan & Wooden, 1984; Sinclair & Golan, 2002). Throughout each day infants and toddlers had the opportunity to observe parents making shopping lists; reading a newspaper, magazine, or book, using a cookbook; writing a letter; and completing work-related documents. As infants and toddlers accompanied parents on their activities and errands in their communities, they may have observed further literacy-related events as groceries were purchased, packages were mailed at the post office, or magazines were read in medical waiting rooms, and as families participated in religious services.
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