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.
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.