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Multiple literacies in early childhood: What do families and communities think about their children's early literacy learning?

Research has highlighted the importance of recognising the preschool years as a crucial time for literacy development (see Heath 1982, Harste et al. 1984, Wells 1985, Teale & Suzby 1986, Clay 1991, Hill et al. 1998). This recognition emphasises the active role children play in constructing literacy-based knowledge through everyday literacy events. Children's capabilities as emerging literates are demonstrated in their interest in environmental print such as the writing on clothing, advertising, logos, instructions and trademarks on food and other packaging in the home. They respond to shop signs, road signs, and other advertising in the community. Children readily observe how members in their family and in the community utilise and respond to this print. Furthermore, children's literacy learnings from the family and community experiences become part of their play, as they read newspapers, magazines, menus and toy catalogues, as well as write notes, cards, lists and bills.

Literacies in diverse families and communities

Research that documents young children's early literacy learning points to the important work done by children and families. Yet apart from Heath's work and some others (see Heath 1982, Cairney & Ruge 1998), information regarding children's literacies in diverse communities and families' perspectives of their children's early literacy learning is yet to inform much of early childhood educators' work with children and families from diverse sociocultural groups.

The multilingual contexts in which many Australian children and families live their daily lives represent the extent to which many young bilinguals are emerging bi-literates. For children in many families in Australia, the language and literacy experiences they encounter represent multiple languages, literacies and cultures. Bilingual children exposed to literacies in both their first and second language have the potential to develop sophisticated knowledge and awareness about print, print conventions, appropriate book behaviours, print directionality and a recognition of familiar words and names, all examples of sociocultural knowledge related to literacy (Jones Diaz 1999). Unfortunately, for many Australian preschool children from bilingual backgrounds, opportunities for early literacy experiences in the home language are mostly confined to the home environment. Thus the central concern for and responsibility of early bi-literacy learning is most often relegated to the families.

Current approaches to early literacy in prior-to-school early childhood settings

In prior-to-school settings, current conceptualisations of how children become literate constitute a variety of theoretical approaches spanning from the more narrow `developmental readiness' and `maturationist' views to more contemporary views of `emergent literacy' and `literacy as social practice'.

Many early childhood educators, drawing on Piagetian views, would argue that children need to develop at their own pace and not be `pushed' by adults. As a result, early childhood educators are often reluctant to focus on literacy in their programs for fear of being accused of `pushing' children beyond their developmental readiness. Settings may take a maturationist or developmentalist approach to literacy, emphasising early childhood as an unhurried time for `gradual unfolding of the child's potential without being subjected to "stress" of active teaching' (Makin et al. 1999, p. 21). Unfortunately this view takes little account of children's daily experiences with literacy as a social technology, through which children learn to make use of powerful tools which are embedded in a range of social and cultural practices.

Many prior-to-school settings in New South Wales have been influenced by the emergent literacy approach (see Teale & Sulzby 1986, Schickendanz 1986), which emphasises the importance of children's interests and capabilities in literacy learning through active child-initiated experiences where functionality, meaning and communication with print and texts are important. Theories of emergent literacy acknowledge individual continuums of literacy development from birth, but do not fully take account of social and cultural variations that exist in young children's literacy learning trajectories. As a result, the variety of opportunities offered to children are often limited.

Learning to be literate in diverse families and communities

Children in most Australian homes and communities encounter a range of different types of language and literacy experiences. These experiences range from the traditional oral and written narratives to functional and extensive uses of information and entertainment technologies (e.g. computers, CD-ROMs, video, fax, answer machines). Literacy learning is more than the one unitary prescribed track that is most often associated with middle class, monocultural and monolingual urban children (Luke & Kale 1997). Differences in `ways of taking' literacy exist across cultures and economic groups and the social categories of race, class, language, gender, sexuality, religion and ethnicity intersect and influence particular ways of using languages and literacies (Makin et al. 1999).

Text (both oral and written) is a social technology and its use and users are highly dependent on its interactive functions. Accordingly, literacy learning is embedded in a range of social practices in culturally specific sites, rather than universal stages of child development and growth. From this perspective the literacies, other than book-based, take on increasingly important functions as young children are immersed in a variety of literacy discourse practices. Such practices are embedded in their daily lives and include literacies of technology and popular culture, environmental print and literacies other than English.

Linguistic capital and literacies other than English

Bourdieu's sociological frameworks provide educators with useful insights into the different ways in which educational settings privilege some forms of cultural and linguistic capital at the expense of others. Cultural capital, which includes the linguistic practices and representational resources of human disposition, also comprises various forms of linguistic capital (Carrington & Luke 1997). The linguistic capital of diverse literacies through which children are enculturated outside of prior-to-school settings often goes unrecognised and undervalued. Consequently, children from diverse backgrounds can meet a very structured form of discontinuity between the `practices widely used in their own communities and those demanded by the school or prior-to-school setting' (Corson 1998, p. 120, emphasis added).

Young bilingual children's linguistic and cultural capital which primarily involves the enculturation of the linguistic `habitus' of the home, will ultimately compete in different sociocultural fields with other forms of capital in order to hold relative value. Thus the linguistic capital derived from the home language may hold currency in the home, but not necessarily the same levels of currency in prior-to-school settings. This can result in an exchange for other forms of linguistic capital, such as the acquisition of English at the expense of the home language.

The cultural and linguistic capital generated in children's homes and communities is often very different from the cultural capital valued in prior-to-schools settings. However, many settings operate as if children have equal access to the capital valued in education, and consequently `schools (and prior-to-school settings) reproduce arrangements that are favourable to some and unfavourable to other groups, by placing their assessments of success on children's possession of this cultural capital, although it is unequally available' (Corson 1998, p. 9, emphasis added). Like schools, the cultural capital mostly valued in prior-to-school settings, is constituted in mainstream school-like English literacy.

Literacies of technology and popular culture

The texts, images and meanings constructed through the popular culture of children's video and computer games, toys and media advertising constitute powerful yet pleasurable discourses through which young children are positioned as `readers' and consumers. Consequently, many parents, teachers and caregivers express concern about the power and impact these texts have on children's developing perceptions of the world.

There is no doubt that the texts of popular culture are pleasurable, attractive and appealing to young children. However, many early childhood practitioners are uneasy with children's consumption of the popular cultural texts such as Xena, Hercules, Star Wars and others, resulting in children often being strongly discouraged from bringing in toys, videos and CD-ROMs to the setting. Many children's lives are absorbed by these texts and they know a great deal about the super-heroes, video games and other toys, regardless of whether they own them or not. Knowledge and ownership of `in' toys, their names and their features represent significant cultural (and social) capital amongst children's peer groups (Comber 1998a,b).

Critical literacy and preschool children

Rather than thinking of children as social dupes at the power of popular cultural texts, and banning toys, videos, and computer games from the setting, early childhood educators could maximise children's expertise in the narratives, images and representations associated with these texts through a critical literacy approach.

Critical literacy draws on sociocultural perspectives of literacy and encourages children (and their teachers) to critique, deconstruct and reconstruct a range of sanctioned and popular texts and their cultural contexts (Muspratt et al. 1997). It involves working with children to approach the meanings represented in texts more critically, rather than benignly taking them for granted. Opportunities are provided for children to think about how meanings of their world are represented in languages and literacies and constituted in discourse.

The literacies of popular culture and technology so heavily featured in computer games, advertising and other media texts would be considered an appropriate starting point from which to think critically about how these texts may give somewhat distorted meanings to children's lives. Teachers can encourage young children to think critically about the marketing strategies and dominant discourses constituted in these texts as a way of capitalising on and valorising children's knowledge. Hence, critical literacy gives children a set of tools from which they are able to `become critical and autonomous citizens who are in control of their lives' (Corson 1998, p. 75). However, it is important that we understand and appreciate the pleasure children gain from these texts, and care should be taken not to destroy children's pleasure and creativity derived from popular culture (Mission 1998).

The study

The project from which the findings were derived was a collaborative effort by research teams representing early childhood education faculties situated at four NSW university sites.(1) It was designed to map existing literacy practices across different prior-to-school education settings in communities that were identified by the funding bodies as serving children (and their families) who are more likely to encounter later difficulties in literacy development, such as those with significant Aboriginal, bilingual and disadvantaged populations. These sites were mostly situated in city and urban areas across NSW and the authors acknowledge that in this regard the mapping exercise is as yet incomplete.

The participants in the study were staff and parents from 79 early childhood prior-to-school settings, where the children were in their final year before school entry. Twenty-four of the research classes were NSW Department of Education (DET) settings and the rest were Department of Community Services (DCS). Two key staff members were interviewed from each study playroom. These were generally the trained early childhood teacher and the assistant. Ten parent focus-groups were held with parent participants using preschool and long day-care settings from a range of social, cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale - Revised (Harms et al. 1998) was chosen as a starting point for measuring the quality of the classroom environments. Modifications were made to ensure that the literacy environment was addressed in sufficient detail. The new and modified items were incorporated into a shortened form of the scale, which for the purposes of the study was renamed The Early Childhood Language and Literacy Scale, 1998 (ECLLS). All researchers underwent a two-day training program and inter-rater reliabilities were taken during the course of the research. No serious anomalies were found during these procedures. All data gathering was conducted within a two-month time frame at the end of 1998, and researchers visited all classrooms during a set time in the morning to ensure a measure of comparability of data. Following classroom observations, teachers and their assistants were individually interviewed using a twenty-item questionnaire designed by the research team. Each interview was audiotaped for later transcription and analysis. The open-ended nature of the questions gave staff the opportunity to talk in-depth about their beliefs, attitudes and practices in supporting young children's literacy development. Staff demographic details such as age, experience, qualifications and recent professional development relating to children's literacy growth were recorded for each setting. Gender, approximate age and language, and cultural background of the children in the settings were also recorded.

The views of families were sought by using focus-group interviews, with two of the focus groups comprising parents from specific cultural backgrounds: one was held within an Aboriginal community and moderated by a community member and the other conducted in Arabic for Arabic-speaking families. The inclusion of the focus-group interviews within the project gave the families the opportunity to have their perspectives represented in terms of their own experiences and viewpoints. Focus questions were designed to identify parents' existing knowledge about their children's early literacy development and their beliefs and understandings about children's literacy experiences at home, in the community and in early childhood services. Interviews were audiotaped and later transcribed.

Analysis

The Early Childhood Language and Literacy Scale data were initially managed by graphing using Excel and will be subjected to further and more detailed analysis. The staff interviews were analysed using NUD*IST, a computerised qualitative data management package, and they have been compared across a number of emerging themes and patterns, as have the focus groups. Data from each site have been triangulated, as well as compared across settings to look for patterns, themes and trends. Centre observational data have been linked to interview and focus-group data where possible in order to tease out congruence and lack of congruence between teachers' and parents' viewpoints and practices. There is an ongoing cycle of reviewing the data as new hypotheses or questions arise.

Findings

The findings of this study suggest that current definitions of early literacy in NSW early childhood education do not appear to reflect the multiple literacy practices in homes and communities, namely, the literacies of technology and popular culture, everyday functional uses of print, and languages other than standard Australian English. The current approaches identified often incorporated narrow and traditional views of book-based literacy practices. Furthermore, it was found that there was quite a discrepancy between family perspectives and staff perspectives on young children's literacy experiences at home and in prior-to-school settings. A more detailed discussion of the emerging themes follows.

Families' perceptions of their children's development in literacies

During focus-group discussions, families stressed the importance of literacy learning for their children and recognised that this was occurring in multiple ways at home, in the community and at preschool or day care. Families tended to have broad definitions of literacy that included the use of technologies, media and environmental print, as well as aspects of emergent literacy such as book-handling skills, retelling familiar narratives and approximations of writing. Families were able to articulate clearly the variety of experiences and extent of opportunities through which their children's literacy learning occurred.

Bilingual families also recognised and valued the importance of developing literacy in home languages as well as English. Similarly, staff recognised the benefits associated with bilingualism and bi-literacy, although in the ECLLS rating scale, recognition of diverse languages and literacies scored low in many settings. For example, in one site, despite the fact that there were a majority of children from Arabic-speaking backgrounds and no Anglo-Australian children, no staff from Arabic-speaking backgrounds were employed. Consequently, English was the dominant language used by staff.

Furthermore, bilingual parents expressed some concern over their children's rejection of the home language while learning English at the centre. Children's home languages were not perceived as being supported in the preschool or day-care settings. Yet at the same time, parents were aware of the speed at which their children learned English in these settings.
 My daughter wouldn't allow me to speak English with her at all, before she
 went to preschool. She used to cry and say to me: talk to me in Arabic only
 ... When she went [to preschool], I mean in just a few months, she came
 back home, by herself, she was able to speak English.

 So they're getting all that from school. Whereas at home, speaking should
 be more and you concentrate more on Arabic.


Family and community literacy practices

Families described literacy as integral to everyday family and community experiences such as writing birthday cards, reading catalogues and shopping. Literacy was also seen as developing through children's immersion in literacy artefacts and observations of adults and older siblings using literacy. A number of parents reported that children imitated adults' and siblings' literacy behaviour.

Parents viewed their contributions as being very important to their children's literacy development. Literacy experiences such as shared books, storytelling, sound recognition games, card games, computer games and writing were viewed by parents as extremely important. Parents provided many examples of joint literacy activities, where family members jointly constructed a text, played a game or engaged in cooperative reading to scaffold the child's learning. Many parents reported that they assisted their children's literacy development with explicit demonstrations of features of print, such as how to form letters or sound out words. A number of parents indicated that they focused on metalinguistic awareness with children, playing sound games with children and encouraging them to recognise rhyme, sounds and letters.

Literacies of technology, media and popular culture

Most families recognised television, computer games and Game-boys as rich sources of literacy, with many parents identifying technology as important to their child's literacy learning. Television programs and computer games were seen as significant aids to oral and written language development, particularly for children learning English as a second language. Many families recognised the role of popular culture in literacy learning as children read toy catalogues, advertisements, toy packaging and logos.

However, in contrast to parents' views about popular culture and computers, staff were less enthusiastic about the impact of popular culture on children's literacy development, as is evident in the following comment:
 I think one example, watching TV, things they watch at home, they might
 come in and say power ranger, we don't allow power rangers at preschool ...
 this is something they are allowed to do at home but we don't allow them to
 do it here.


Teachers' perspectives of literacy tended to focus more narrowly on book-based literacy in English. Although teachers did include environmental print in definitions of literacy they did not include technology and media literacies. The use of television and video was believed by many teachers to be detrimental to literacy development. Some staff held deficit views of children's experiences with television at home as expressed in the following comments:
 I'm not sure how much literacy is supported in the home. Television comes
 into it a bit too much I think.

 A lot of children are read to before they go to sleep but a lot just watch
 TV or just have to sit down and shut up.


In contrast to staff views of television, the parents were clear about the impact of the media on their children's language and literacy learning. In the Arabic focus group, the parents were highly aware of their children's English language learning as they talked about the influence of television programs such as Sesame Street and Playschool.
 You'd get them a video to teach spelling, talking, I mean, they'd explain
 on the video, how they read ... how they speak, for example cartoons, they
 speak and they write for them what they're saying, so they learn how to
 write and read.

 ... and when she reached one year [the daughter], she used to like to watch
 television. Playschool, she used to sing, she was only one, she used to
 know all the [songs] and then, by two she knew the ABC just by watching
 Sesame Street and Playschool ...


The data from ECLLS indicate that while television and videos were available in many settings they were not utilised as a means to support language and literacy development. Field notes suggest that computers were often not available for children's use and when they were available, staff did not often interact with children when engaged in these experiences. One staff member commented that:
 We made a positive choice not to have a computer--due to the limited time
 for the sessions. Children need the important social interaction skills
 rather than computers. [They] get plenty of that [computers] at school so
 we focus on other issues.


Dominant discursive literacy practices

While interview data suggest that some teachers were aware and supportive of children's diverse literacy expertise developed at home and in the community, many teachers did not fully understand the multiple ways that children experience literacy at home and in the community. As a result, these experiences of literacy were not fully integrated into the setting.

The importance of book-based and bedtime literacy practices was apparent in the interviews in which staff expressed concerns based on children's lack of exposure to books in the home.
 ... maybe a handful out of all the kids in my class ... might be read to
 overnight or not at all. And usually what they get here is all that they
 get.

 ... a lot of the parents have the mentality that they don't need to read a
 book to the children, that's the teacher's role, not the parents, and if
 they don't pick it up by the time they're four, it doesn't matter `cause
 they will learn it at school, and so I try to get them to even be able to
 read a book properly, like hold it up the correct way and turn the pages
 correctly and know the picture and the writing ...


The relative disregard for possible literacy practices in languages other than English that might occur in the home was evident in one site. The following comment is indicative of lack of tolerance about Arabic language print conventions, i.e. reading text from right to left.
 ... a lot of them go to Lebanese or Arabic schools as well as here. And I
 think that that could be confusing to them, because we have lots of
 problems with them writing back to front. Like what we suppose is back to
 front to us. I do think that they do get confused with that, because they
 have to still write that way when a lot of it is back to front and you have
 got to train them to do the other way around.


Universal assumptions about literacy practices based on English literacy conventions seem to result in deficit assumptions of children's diverse literacy experiences. These assumptions were also applied to the children's overall literacy competence as is apparent in the following quote:
 ... and so you can see those who have been read to, `cause they treat the
 books with more care or respect ... and the others they've never seen
 books, they don't care, they throw them [around].


Family expectations

Many parents expressed concerns about the lack of time available to spend assisting their child's literacy and believed that the prior-to-school setting should be playing a more prominent role. Settings were expected to be a place where children were strengthening their literacy, however parents indicated that they did not believe that this was happening. Rather it was felt that staff underestimated what the children could do and did not place enough emphasis on literacy. Writing in particular was seen as an area that was not given enough attention. This is reflected in comments from parents such as:
 You try to teach them the alphabet stuff at home but it is not reinforced
 in the preschool.

 We were from Hong Kong and I know from four years old they already started
 writing and it's very common for them to write some simple words--they are
 capable of doing that


Interview data suggest that while some teachers engage in ongoing dialogue with parents about children's literacy development and parents' expectations, parents' views were often dismissed by teachers as `pushy' or `paranoid'. Teachers made comments such as:
 It's very frustrating. Parents want us to teach reading and writing--and we
 have to try to explain that this is not developmentally appropriate. They
 don't believe us when we tell them that it is not what children should be
 learning now.


Parents' perspectives on literacy which were most often dismissed by staff involved cultural differences. As a result, a number of parents expressed lack of confidence in raising issues with staff:
 My daughter was three-and-a-half and she already knows how to do her
 letters and they [teachers] told me that I was being forceful and I wasn't
 supposed to do that, and I say `why' and she said `because you are forcing
 your child to write'. And I felt bad.


Communication between staff and families about literacy

Parents viewed communication with teachers as essential and valued opportunities to share information with staff. Teacher-parent interviews, sharing of developmental profiles and samples of children's work and progress journals were identified by parents as positive communication strategies used by teachers. The importance of opportunities to raise issues with teachers informally was also highlighted. Some settings were reported to have strategies in place to enable them to find out about the literacy experiences of children at home and in the communities. This was particularly evident in Aboriginal communities where it was believed that it was essential that staff were well informed regarding cultural practices and expectations.

The ECLLS rating scale and interviews with staff indicated that many settings had a variety of strategies in place to share information with parents. These included parent meetings, newsletters and parent-teacher conferences, as well as informal communication. Although many settings rated highly on communication methods on the ECLLS rating scale, closer examination of communication practices reveals that much of the communication is one-way, with teachers providing information to parents about the setting's program and telling them what they should be doing at home, rather than a two-way exchange of information.

In focus-group discussions parents were clearly able to articulate the home and community literacy experiences and progress of their children. However they were not generally given the opportunity to provide this information to teachers. Few teachers had established mechanisms to find out about literacy practices in children's homes, instead making assumptions about children's home experiences based on observations or intuition. Teachers made comments such as:
 I've never done anything formal, there's never been any survey of
 information, but the parents will offer things of what they do ... some of
 them don't say anything.


Interview and focus-group data suggest that in most cases teachers waited for parents to offer information rather than actively seeking it. As a result, teachers were well informed about the home literacy practices of children with confident parents who were articulate in English and had the time and opportunity to share information with teachers. Teachers were generally not well informed about home literacy practices where parents and the teacher were from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and parents did not feel confident to initiate communication.

In focus-group discussions, many parents expressed concerns about the lack of time to discuss issues with staff. However, staff often misinterpreted this as parents being disinterested. This was reflected in teachers' comments such as:
 Our programs are up on the wall but I don't think many of them bother to
 read it.

 Okay, in my experience parents only really want to know what they want to
 know, when they want to know it.


Congruence and incongruence

In a few cases there were collaborations between settings and families and congruence between the home and the setting. This generally was the case where families and staff shared the same cultural and/or linguistic background, for example in many of the Aboriginal settings visited. Where staff and families came from different backgrounds congruence was less likely to occur and staff valued their own expertise while undervaluing families' experiences, languages and literacies. However, in some cases genuine collaborations involving two-way exchange of information and negotiation resulted when staff valued parents' input and recognised that families had much valuable information to contribute about their child's expertise with literacy.

In settings where congruence was evident, teachers had developed strategies to enable parents to share information with them about family literacy experiences and expectations for their children. Teachers were then able to integrate many of these home and community experiences into the setting and discuss ways of meeting expectations with families. This may involve much discussion and negotiation as teachers share information with and listen to families. In settings where this occurred, parents made comments such as:
 She [the teacher] always asks you what you do, remember when you go for
 your interview, she'll always ask you what you do at home, sort of thing,
 like reading or whatever.

 That's what my daughter's preschool has, `We want to know everything about
 your child so that we can shape the program. We want to know your
 expectations and then we will be able to talk to you about this during the
 year, whether you are happy with what is happening'. And they have.


In settings where there was little exchange of information, incongruence was evident. Instead of learning from parents about children's home experiences with literacy, teachers in many settings made assumptions about children's understanding of literacy based on their own, often limited, definitions of literacy. As a result many children, particularly those who were from cultural and language backgrounds different from those of the teacher, were labelled as coming from `literacy deprived' backgrounds.

Conclusion

While research within the last twenty years has effectively contributed to how early childhood staff understand literacy learning in young children, the findings in this research suggest that early childhood staff need to go beyond traditional models of early literacy. This will ensure that meaningful and contextual literacy experiences that fully account for and acknowledge children's multiple literacies are provided. This research questions the extent to which models of traditional and emergent literacy are able to fully embrace cultural and social variations in literacy learning, so that children who experience other than dominant English speaking book-based literacy practices are not marginalised within these frameworks.

The findings also suggest that in prior-to-school settings, the disparities between what children experience at the setting and what they experience at home or in their communities result in significant disconnections between home and the setting. Consequently, opportunities for early literacy learning are somewhat limited, resulting in inequality of learning outcomes for many children from diverse social and cultural groups.

Recommendations

The following recommendations have emerged as a result of this study:

* Early childhood staff need to develop greater understanding of literacy as social practice in order to fully acknowledge and value the diversity of family perspectives, practices and expectations regarding literacy in our communities.

* Ongoing exchange of information and input between families and teachers about children's interests and experiences with literacy will result in more effective collaboration between families and staff.

* Staff's understanding of the impact of technology and popular culture in children's literacy development and the incorporation of these literacies into their program will result in greater opportunities for literacy learning for all children.

* The valorisation and incorporation of literacies in languages other than Standard English and the recognition of family concerns and aspirations towards their children's bilingual and bi-literacy encounters will result in meaningful and contextual learning experiences.

(1) This study was funded by the NSW Department of Community Services and the NSW Department of Education and Training. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the NSW Department of Community Service and the Department of Education and Training.

References

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Clay, M.M. 1991, Becoming Literate, Heinemann, Auckland, New Zealand

Comber, B. 1998a, Literacies, Contingent Repertoires and School Success, The Garth Boomer Memorial Address to the Joint National Conference of the Australian Literacy Educators' Association and the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, Canberra, Conference Proceedings, pp. 1-27.

Comber, B. 1998b, Coming, Ready or Not!: Changing What Counts as Early Literacy, Language and Literacy Research Centre, University of South Australia. http://www.schools.ash.org.au/litweb/barb2.html

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Harms, T., Clifford, R.M. & Cryer, D. 1998, Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale -- Revised Edition, Teacher College Press, New York, NY.

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Heath, S. 1982, `What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and at school', Language in Society, vol. 11, pp. 49-76.

Hill, S., Comber, B., Louden, W., Rivalland, J. & Reid, J. 1998, 100 Children Go to School: Connections and Disconnections in Literacy Development in the Year Prior-to-school and the First Year of School, vol. 1, DEETYA, Canberra.

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Appendix Summary table of findings
Issues Findings from the study

Models of early literacy Staff held narrow and traditional
as applied views of early literacy learning in
to prior-to-school their approach to early literacy
settings need to go beyond education.
maturationist and
developmental readiness.

Sociocultural perspectives The disparity between children's
of literacy as social experiences at the setting and
practice can offer an experiences at home or in their
inclusive, equitable and communities resulted in significant
critical framework for disconnections between the home and
working with young children the setting.
from diverse sociocultural
groups.

 The lack of shared understapdings
 between staff and families about
 literacy results in incongruence
 between home and the setting for
 many children.

Families' perspectives of Families were able to clearly
and contributions to their articulate the variety of ways
children's early literacy their children construct literacy
experiences are relatively based knowledge, such as
under-researched in bi-literacy, literacies of
Australian contexts. Hence popular culture and technologies.
these important
contributions go
unrecognised in prior to Bilingual families expressed
school settings. concerns for their children's home
 language development.

 Families' perspectives and
 expectations about their children's
 early literacy learning were often
 disregarded.

 Communication between families and
 staff was often one-way, rather
 than a two-way exchange of
 information.

In prior-to-school Children who experience `other'
settings, school acquired literacies did not have
English literacy is highly opportunities to extend on these
valued at the expense of experiences in the setting and
`other' literacies such as consequently became marginalised as
literacies other than having `deficit'
English, popular culture literacy practices.
and literacies of
technology.

Staff can maximise Most families recognised that the
literacy learning literacies of popular culture and
opportunities by technologies were important tools in
encouraging children to their children's literacy learning.
critically work with and In contrast, staff were less
talk about how they enthusiastic about popular culture
experience texts of texts. As a result, opportunities
popular culture and for children to connect literacy to
technologies. these texts at the setting were
 limited.


Criss Jones Diaz is a lecturer in the Early Childhood Division of the Faculty of Education and Languages at the University of Western Sydney. She is currently undertaking doctoral studies investigating the intersections between language retention and bilingual identities in early childhood. Her research and publication experience includes bilingualism and bi-literacy in early childhood; language and literacy development and diversity and social justice issues.

Address: University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, Campbelltown, NSW 2560

Email: c.jones-diaz@uws.edu.au

Leonie Arthur is currently a lecturer in the Early Childhood Division of the Faculty of Education and Languages at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur. Her teaching and research interests are in language and literacy, Aboriginal perspectives and social justice issues in early childhood education.

Address: University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, Campbelltown, NSW 2560

Email: l.arthur@uws.edu.au

Bronwyn Beecher is a lecturer in the Early Childhood Division of the Faculty of Education and Languages at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur. Her research and teaching interests lie in the areas of language and literacy learning at home, communities and early childhood settings; planning and management practices and active learning for children and adults in early childhood education.

Address: University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, Campbelltown, NSW 2560

Email: b.beecher@uws.edu.au

Margaret McNaught is a lecturer in early childhood education at Macquarie University. Her research and teaching interests include language and literacy for children with literacy needs, and reading recovery programs.

Address: Macquarie University, Ryde, NSW 2109

Email: mcnaught@iec.iec.mq.edu.au
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Author:Diaz, Criss Jones; Arthur, Leonie; Beecher, Bronwyn; McNaught, Margaret
Publication:Australian Journal of Language and Literacy
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:6204
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