Like speech and language, prereading in our culture is acquired through social interaction rather than formal instruction (Pflaum, 1986). Reading together is a highly social activity in which both parents and children participate. The adult uses many conversational techniques for oral language development, including focusing attention, asking questions, and reinforcing the child's attempts at reading.
Reading development begins within social interactions between a child and caregiver(s) at around age 1, as adults begin to share books with toddlers. Book sharing is usually conversational in tone with the book serving as the focus of communication. Here's an example:
ADULT: This a book about a ...
ADULT: Well, yes. You found a cow. What do cows say?
ADULT: Um-hm, cows say, "Moo." Can you find another cow?
Reading the story is secondary to and will be included in the conversation. A parent or caregiver mediates the process by modeling responses for a child, by providing feedback, and by talking about both the text and the pictures (van Kleeck & Beckley-McCall, 2002).
Actual text reading by parents usually begins late in the second year or in the third year. A relationship exists between the age of onset of home reading routines and a child's oral language skills, especially oral comprehension (Debaryshe, 1993).
Parent-child reading is not the only way of developing a concept of literacy. Television shows, such as Sesame Street, and parental activities, such as the use of cookbooks and TV schedules or bill paying, are also important. A child learns that books and writing or print convey information. In short, the child gains a notion of literacy.
There are several phases of reading development. In the prereading phase, which occurs prior to age 6, a child gains an awareness of print and sounds while gradually learning to make associations between the two.
By age 3, most children in our culture are familiar with books and can recognize their favorite books. Through book sharing they have gained the rudiments of print awareness, such as knowing the direction in which reading proceeds across a page and through a book, being interested in print, and recognizing some letters (Snow et al., 1999). Later the child will learn that words are discrete units and will be able to identify letters and use literacy terminology, such as letter, word, and sentence.
At this age, words may be stored by their visual features, or the way they look, but children lack knowledge of the phoneme-grapheme (sound-letter) correspondence. The connections in the child's memory for printed words are relatively unsystematic.
For most children, emergent story reading in which a child pretends to read a book or uses a book to tell a story begins between ages 2½ and 4 (Kaderavek & Sulzby, 2000). A child uses the vocabulary and syntax associated with specific books and written elements, such as printed words, in this process, even if the words are not interpreted correctly. Gradually, a child moves from language about the text to language that recreates the text (Sulzby & Zecker, 1991). At this age, my granddaughter could recite several of her favorite books, many of the simple ones word for word.
Most 4-year-olds are "consumers" of print and are able to recognize their names and a few memorized words (Dickinson, Wolf, & Stotsky, 1993). Words learned within one context, such as environmental signs and package labels, gradually become decontextualized until they are recognized in print alone. Approximately 60 percent of 3-year-olds and 80 percent of 4- and 5-year-olds recognize the word stop (Goodman, 1986), and they all probably know McDonald's golden "M." In addition, they gain some general concept that print in books is distinct from the pictures and that books are used in certain ways.
Children who have been exposed to a home literacy environment and to print media have better phoneme awareness, letter knowledge, and vocabulary (Foy & Mann, 2003). Some home literacy practices seem to affect later language and literacy skills more than others. For example, among working-class African American children, these are overall support from the home environment, responsiveness, sensitivity, and acceptance of children's behavior that provides structure, organization, and a positive general emotional climate at home along with stimulating toys and interactions (Roberts, Jurgens, & Burchinal, 2005).
Mothers vary their book-sharing behaviors based on a preschool child's age (van Kleeck & Beckley-McCall, 2002). For example, mothers use more complex books and more sentences with higher levels of abstraction and spend more time sharing books with older preschoolers. High levels of abstraction include summarizing, making judgments and comparisons, predicting, and explaining. In contrast, mothers use more mediating strategies and spend more time getting and maintaining attention with younger children. In mediating strategies, the parent goes beyond the book to provide a context for the child, as in "Jonathan lived on a farm. Remember when we went to the farm to pet the animals?"
As early as age 2 some children show awareness of sounds in their speech repairs, in rhyming, and in sound play (Kamhi & Catts, 1999). Rhyming activities also increase awareness of syllables and smaller units. Many preschoolers are unable to segment words into smaller units (MacLean, Bryant, & Bradley, 1987; van Kleeck & Schuele, 1987). While children are aware of sounds, most will require some formal instruction in order to break words down into individual phonemes.
Phonologic awareness progresses gradually from an awareness of larger segments to smaller ones (Gombert, 1992). By age 4, children are beginning to attend to the internal structure of words such as phonologic similarities and syllable structure.
Syllables are the organizing units for sounds. Each syllable can be divided into its initial phonemes, called the onset, and the remaining part of the word or rime, which, in turn, consists of a nucleus or vowel and a coda (see Figure 1104). The onset and the coda in English can consist of up to three consonants, so CCCVCCC is possible. For example, in the word stripes the onset is /str/ (CCC) and the rime is ipes, which can be further divided into the nucleus /aI/ and the coda /ps/ (CC). Many 4-year-olds are able to detect syllables and rimes but are unable to detect phonemes until age 5 or 6.
The child's cognitive and linguistic abilities are also important for early reading development. Especially important are working memory and long-term word storage.
Unfortunately, knowing that a phoneme roughly corresponds to a grapheme is not enough. As discussed previously, the correspondence in English is not one to one. In addition, English orthography sometimes favors morphological stability over phonemic difference, as in using -ed for the past-tense marker, even though it may be pronounced as /t/, /d/, or /əd/.
Syllable knowledge is needed in order to decode and pronounce written words. Along with syllable knowledge is a knowledge of syllable stress. The noun "entrance" differs from the verb "entrance" only in the stress placed on each syllable. By age 7, a child has a rigid stress rule that is the same for all words. This is gradually modified into a more flexible system as the child matures.
A child also must be aware of word boundaries. The child must begin to realize that jumping rope is two words and that forms such as jump-roping are incorrect.
In the first phase of formal reading acquisition, the alphabetic phase, corresponding to kindergarten through second grade, a child concentrates on decoding single words in simple stories. Undoubtedly, the most difficult part of this learning involves the metalinguistic skills needed in order to integrate the sound and writing systems. In English, the phoneme, as represented by a grapheme or letter, is the basis for the orthographic system. Among such systems, only Korean has phonemic features such as place and manner of sound production included in the written symbols. Other languages, such as Japanese, use an orthography system based on the syllable or word as the basic unit. Alphabetic systems, such as English, German, or Korean, are easier for recovering the phonologic form, although such recovery is unnecessary for mature silent reading (Hardin, O'Connell, & Kowal, 1998).
If the kindergarten curriculum is "literacy rich;' children begin to decode the alphabetic system (Snow et aI., 1999). Some children learn to recognize words by the word shape, while others begin to "read" based on the first and last letters of a word. Although many kindergarteners know letter names, their knowledge is incomplete for vowel sounds and many consonant sounds (Ehri, 2000). In attempting to read, they use a memorized combination of word shapes, letter names, and guessing.
With first grade, children are introduced to reading instruction and to the sound-letter correspondence called phonics. Much of a child's cognitive capacity is used in decoding, leaving little for higher language functions. As the child becomes better able to match sounds to letters, other language skills can be brought to bear on reading, and reading becomes more automatic.
Emerging letter-sound skills vary (Dodd & Carr, 2003). It's relatively easy for children to find a letter that matches a particular sound. Making the sound of a given letter is more difficult, while printing the letter that goes with a sound is even more so.
Although phonology (sound) and orthography (letters) are important for early reading, the contribution of grammar and meaning increases as children begin to read multisyllabic words (Ehri & McCormick, 1998). Knowledge of morphology, for example, may aid students to read all portions of a word and to use their knowledge of word parts in interpretation. Children learn to break words apart, recombine them, and create new words (Berninger, Abbott, Billingsley, & Nagy, 2001).
By age 7 or 8, most children have acquired the graphemic (sound-symbol), syllabic, and word knowledge they need to become competent readers. This knowledge is acquired in school in most cultures. Among the Vai, a Liberian population, however, knowledge of written syllabic symbols is learned informally within the family.
Once a child gains some control over letter discrimination and syllable and word boundaries, he or she becomes a more efficient attender to print, and some higher comprehension skills become evident. Meaningful words in context are read faster than random words. At this stage, a child begins by relying heavily on visual configuration for word recognition by paying particular attention to the first letter and to word length, ignoring letter order and other features. A child is aware of the importance of the letters but is unable to use them in analyzing the word. Next, a child learns sound-spelling correspondence rules and is able, using this phonetic approach, to sound out novel words. Thus, segmental detail, or the arrangement of sound and letter sequences, becomes more important. In addition, a child learns that the text, not the reader, is the bearer of the message and that the text does more than just describe the pictures. Successful first-grade oral readers are able to use the text to analyze unknown words. Along with phonological and orthographics or spelling, semantics is an important factor in word decoding (Swank, 1997). Poor readers tend to guess wildly.
By the second or orthographic phase of reading development, roughly third and fourth grades, the child is able to analyze unknown words using orthographic patterns and contextual references. In third grade, the child is expected to use silent independent reading and to use reading texts in different content areas. There is a shift from learning to read to reading to learn (Snow et al., 1999).
As a child improves, reading becomes more automatic or fluent, especially for familiar words. Fluency is aided by the use of grapheme-phoneme patterns in the child's memory and by analogy, the process of relating unfamiliar words to familiar ones based on similar spelling.
Phase 3, from grades four to eight, seems to be a major watershed in which the emphasis in reading shifts from decoding skills to comprehension. Thus, the scanning rate continues to increase steadily. By secondary school, firmly within phase 4, the adolescent uses higher level skills such as inference and recognition of viewpoint to aid comprehension. Lower level skills are already firmly established. Finally, at phase 5, the college level and beyond, the adult is able to integrate what reads into his or her current knowledge base and make critical judgments about the material.
From age 7 or 8 through adulthood, reading becomes more automatic, with direct access to both phonologic-orthographic and semantic coding. Adjustments in reading strategy that depend on one more than the other are based on text difficulty. The differences between the 7-year-old and the adult reader are primarily quantitative, not qualitative, although there are some obvious differences (Smith, 1986). Adults have a larger, more diverse vocabulary and a more flexible pronunciation system, and they are able to comprehend larger units than elementary school children.
Comprehension is for all readers aided by cohesion within the text. In general, the more cohesive ties in the text, the more understandable it is. More explicit texts are more readable. As in oral development, more mature readers interpret ties more readily and have less difficulty with complex, intersential cohesion.
Not all children follow the same progression. Children have different cognitive styles that influence the manner in which they approach tasks. In addition, which language is being read and whether it is a reader's first or second language will influence the processes emphasized.
© ______ 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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