The authors of "Real-World Literacy Activity in Pre-School," Jim Anderson, Victoria Purcell-Gates, Kimberly Lenters, and Marianne McTavish, argue that children who can relate what they learn in school to their environment, family, and community enter school with increased levels of literacy. But how? In order to support this idea, the authors created literacy activities for two pre-school classes.
The Literacy for Life Program (LFL) created by the authors allowed children to engage in activities such as arts and crafts, playing games, and listening to stories. Although these may sound like normal activities for preschool children, the teachers introduced real-world texts that required reading and/or writing. The activities mirrored actual activities that young children can observe and engage in outside of class, for example watching and/or helping your mom or dad make a grocery list. (See tables below for activities that the children participated in.)
The research about LFL indicated that the use of real-world texts, mediated by other activities, resulted in higher scores on various reading and writing measures. The primary takeaway was that children observed the importance of reading and writing in their lives, and that a member of their family helped to support and mediate the learning beyond the classroom environment.
Catherine Snow, the author of "Unfulfilled Expectations: Home and School Influences on Literacy," supports the previous research, and she emphasizes that changes in the home and school environment are crucial for a positive effect on literary development in young children. Snow stresses that presenting reading and writing in creative contexts, encouraging communication between the parents of students and teachers, and reforming the curriculum and management of schools are all keys for positive literacy development for students. The creative context revolving around learning to read and write must tie into the environment outside of the classroom and engage children in order for them to have a positive association with the overall learning experience.
Lisa M. Gring-Pemble and Pamela Garner, authors of "Writing Rock Stars: An After-School Community Partnership in Childhood Literacy," further emphasize the importance of programs outside of the classroom context that allow for increased literacy in young children. The authors argue that providing a literacy program in a community context allows for a shift in curriculum that can better target each child's literary goals and literary deficits.
The reading and writing program that the authors created provided the young children with a creative and enjoyable forum, unlike what is taught within the classroom. Like the Literacy for Life Program, the authors implemented activities such as playing, talking, drawing, and sharing stories with others--thereby creating unique activities that possess real-world importance and meaning. The writing program resulted in the student's development of stronger writing skills, especially around revision. Furthermore, some of the students experienced individual success concerning behavioral problems that would be difficult to overcome and address within the normal classroom context.
Actual Photos of Student Work
Likewise, Molly Ness, the author of "Books in Motion: How a Community Literacy Project Impacts Its Participants", shows how community literacy programs, in the form of public library programs, positively impact children's literacy by enabling community interactions, creating motivation to participate in literacy activities, and providing access to literacy resources.
Molly Ness studied a particular public library book club which is called Books in Motion. The club would invite young readers and community members to read a children's chapter book and watch the book's film adaptation following the reading. The implementation of literacy interactions outside of the classroom setting allowed for children to view reading as an interesting, engaging, and fun activity. The children who engaged in the program reaped widespread benefits through literacy interactions in a non-school environment--in turn, creating widespread benefits within the classroom context. Teachers from the community joined the program, in addition to children and their family members, enabling everyone involved to learn from and discuss the content of the books that were read, resulting in new literary growth and knowledge in a motivating forum.
Each of the authors supports the need for an enjoyable and engaging learning atmosphere that is sometimes lost in the classroom context. Although each author analyzed teaching styles in different contexts, the main takeaway is that information and learning material that is presented to children must possess real-world applications in order to truly heighten the process of literacy acquisition.
Tips for teachers: Create fun and engaging activities that revolve around what young children observe and learn from their environment. For example, create an art project where your students attempt to illustrate a car that they have seen or one that their parents’ own. Instead of simply stopping at this, introduce a literary concept such as how to phonetically spell “go” or “stop,” then relate it to the illustrations of cars that the students created.
Tips for parents: The key for enhancing your child/children’s literacy acquisition is to enable them to relate what they have learned in the classroom setting to their home environment. You can participate in this by talking to your child’s teacher, understanding what they engage in during class, and continuing to expand this learning process in your own home. When your child engages in homework or learning activities at home, provide support to them and try to attach a greater meaning to the work that they are engaging in.
As mentioned in the previous blog post, Lisa M. Gring-Pemble and Pamela Garner, the authors of "Writing Rock Stars: An After-School Community Partnership in Childhood Literacy" implemented an after school writing program that drew upon the principles of a peer collaboration model and a community literacy perspective.
Alongside the curriculum utilized within the course, the instructors evaluated student success through three collaborative book projects and one individual book project. The primary goal of writing a book collaboratively with other students was to initiate children into the importance of writing, revising, analyzing, and taking responsibility for their own work.
Writing the books as a class enabled students to experience the creative and enjoyable aspects associated with writing and writing revision. The joyful atmosphere maintained by students communicating and working with one another made way for the innovation of their own stories. The student's expansion on their previous writing abilities contributed to increased levels of confidence with reading and writing, along with mastery over principles of language use. This success in literary acquisition aided by the after-school program encouraged the children's passion for reading and writing even after the completion of the program.
Anne Haas Dyson, the author of "A Sense of Belonging: Writing (Righting) Inclusion and Equity in a Child's Transition to School", supports the original argument but further delves into the importance of a student’s sense of belonging through the process of literacy acquisition. Dyson argues that a child’s encounters with other children in the classroom setting can greatly benefit their perspective on the learning process and vice versa. But what does this feeling of belonging have to do with a child's ability to read and write?
Dyson participated in an ethnographic case study on an African American student, Ta'Von, who was in a kindergarten class with primarily white students. Through the study, Dyson highlights the social negotiations amongst students that hinder literary acquisition. Ta'Von struggled in the classroom setting, needing "help" placed him in a different category from the "bright" children who did not need as much assistance. Although Ta'Von felt as though he did not belong at first, he began to acquire resources to respond to, and to participate with others, in turn, enabling communicative progress as a writer.
Inclusion is the main takeaway for literary development in Ta'Von's case. If a child does not feel as though they belong and can interact with their peers then there can be negative consequences presented through the individual and collaborative learning process.
Judith Langer, the author of "A Sociocognitive Perspective on Literacy", draws upon the development of literacy from a sociocognitive viewpoint, being culturally based, and being learned by children through group interaction. Schools have the ability to capitalize on the social nature of literacy which would allow students to acquire skills from broader and more purposeful classroom activities.
Langer stresses that the social origins of literacy greatly influence a child's literary acquisition; specifically, one's culture becomes key to how one thinks, learns, and relates to others and the environment. As children begin to learn literary signs and symbols they begin to learn how to become a part of their culture and the greater world.
Langer agrees with the authors of "Writing Rock Stars" in that literacy is socially based. When reading and writing are treated as purposeful activities that spawn from shared questions amongst students, broader and more varied uses of literacy are learned. Engaging in work collaboratively with others enables each individual to bring their knowledge to the table, allowing enhanced learning through this form of group interaction.
Lisa M. Gring-Pemble, Pamela Garner, and Judith Langer emphasize the benefits that arise from group collaboration within the learning process. Furthermore, Anne Haas Dyson supports their idea of collaboration, noting that feelings of exclusion from peers and a lack of group participation and involvement can hinder a child's ability to learn key literary tools and techniques.
Tips for teachers: Although you may already implement group collaboration and work into your instruction, attempt to elicit a more collaborative method of learning. Like previously mentioned, you can have your students write a small picture book with one another; allowing each student to expand on the ideas of other students. Instead of making group-work seem like a burden, allow it to seem like a constructive activity where everyone feels included and supported.
Tips for parents: Even though you cannot influence the degree of group collaboration in the classroom setting, you can create collaborative activities outside of class. Schedule playdates with your child and other kids where they make arts and crafts with one another. Simply working on homework with your child/children can allow them to see how others’ input and help enables them to learn better and to learn different peoples’ perspectives.
Molly Ness, the author of "Books in Motion: How a Community Literacy Project Impacts Its Participants", argues that familial involvement in literacy programs enhances children's experience with the learning process. Although the literary program, Books in Motion, was already discussed in another blog post, we are going to tune in to the importance of family involvement within the program.
Family literacy programs allow children to reap academic, social, and personal benefits. The social element of the program inspired families to continue reading with one another as a group. The children who were a part of Books in Motion had an incentive to continue reading the book, the incentive being watching the film adaptation of the book with their family and their community once they finished. Ness also notes that family involvement in the program led to increased parental involvement with children's school activities and classwork/homework, heightening a child's reading and writing abilities outside of the classroom context.
Catherine Snow, the author of "Unfulfilled Expectations: Home and School Influences on Literacy", conducted a study on 32 elementary school children primarily from low-income communities. Within the study, the teachers held stereotypical images of low-income parents, believing that they were not interested in their children's education, giving A's and B's to the students' work even if it was not satisfactory. The low-income parents believed that their children were doing well in school, therefore, they did not feel the need to reach out to the teacher or provide as much assistance to their child. The students within the study made below average gains on literary tests compared to the national average. Catherine Snow deduced from the study that encouraging communication and involvement between parents, teachers, and students improves and allows for literary growth and achievement.
The author, Molly Ness, noted that family involvement in the learning process improves a child's perspective and experience with learning how to read and write. Catherine Snow further builds upon this claim by exploring relationships between teachers, parents, and students, depicting that healthy relationships must be maintained and partook in in order to create literary success for a child.
Tips for teachers: Put aside your preconceived notions of parents involvement in their child’s learning process and literary acquisition. If problems arise in the classroom setting, or if any small or large learning barriers appear, make sure to communicate that with the student’s guardian(s) in order to allow the parents to help facilitate the child’s learning outside of school.
Tips for parents: Family involvement is highly linked to student achievement, therefore, make sure you’re involved with your child’s work and with your child’s teachers. Within your household, make it apparent that education is valuable and that you also engage in learning yourself; for example, read with your children, watch educational films, and make learning feel like a fun activity instead of a chore.
Whenever I look back on my experiences with learning how to read and write, I tend to remember the positive aspects of my literary acquisition inside the classroom and outside of the classroom. Literacy is a key component for a child’s development and for educational success throughout the span of their life. Both my parents and teachers have continuously supported my educational growth. Without this very support and care for my education, I would not be in the same position as I am in today. I would not value the importance of effectual education and literary achievement in a child's life if I had not experienced the same.