The Critical Role of Family Setting for Emergent Learning in Infants and Toddlers (page 2)
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.
Parents Engage Children in Frequent Book Sharing
From early in their children’s lives, parents have made picture-book sharing a part of their daily routines (Baghban, 1984; Crago & Crago, 1983; Joyner, 1987). This picture-book sharing is not simply motivated by the desire for their children to get a head start on reading. In fact, parents of young children are quite aware that it will be several years before their children will actually read in the conventional sense. Instead, this daily routine of sharing picture books stems from parents’ strong orientation to literacy and their past and ongoing personal satisfaction with their own experiences with books, as well as their personal pleasure in sharing books with their young children. The sharing of picture books builds upon the attachment bond between parent and child (Bus, 2002) and provides opportunity for parents to teach their children about the world around them.
Parents Encourage Children’s Early Literacy Explorations
As children observe their parents in daily literacy-related events, and as they experience frequent picture-book sharing events, they begin to show an interest in participating in these events. Children’s responses may involve nonverbal behaviors (pointing, gesturing, facial expressions, helping to turn the pages of the book) or verbal behaviors (babbling, laughing, and making animal sounds). These early explorations are encouraged by their parents. Parents carefully observe children’s interest in these language and literacy-related events and begin to nurture this interest by facilitating their children’s explorations. Perhaps this involves providing paper and markers to the toddler who is interested in “writing,” that is, drawing and scribbling (Baghban, 1984; Schickedanz, 1986). Or it may involve providing a range of developmentally appropriate picture books that are easily accessible and then responding positively when their toddlers select a book and ask for it to be read to them. It may also involve understanding that toddlers may like to sit and look at their books independently, but are not yet able to put the books away consistently.
Parents also encourage literacy explorations when they respond positively to their children’s attempts to participate in other literacy-related events, such as reading the mail, making a shopping list, writing a letter to a relative, locating the desired box of cereal at the grocery store, or singing in a religious service.
© ______ 2008, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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