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The Braid of Literature: Children's Worlds of Reading.

Much research has been conducted on the literacy process of preschoolers and school-age students. Therefore, we have a plethora of books about early literacy, the parent's role in the literacy process and "appropriate" literature for students at specific ages or grade spans. Little has been written, however, about the specific role of literature in the lives of young children brought up in a family that enjoys literature. Neither is there much written on children's response to or interaction with literature. The Braid of Literature fills that gap.

For nine years, Shelby Wolf, parent and ethnographic researcher, documented her role in the literacy process by reading to her young daughters and recording their responses. The reader eavesdrops on Lindsey's and Ashley's spontaneous speech, reactions, artistic expressions and dramatic play.

Shirley Brice Heath's interdisciplinary research knowledge, comments and criticisms help to crystallize the study and make the text more meaningful for the reader. Together Wolf and Heath take the reader through a longitudinal study of one literate family as they go about their lives, talk to their daughters, read stories or play tapes.

It is a treat to read about Lindsey's dramatic play and Ashley's verbal interpretation of such favorites as Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel & Gretel and Charlotte's Web. The reader marvels at Wolf's patience in recording the "verbatim utterances" of the girls as they mature and respond to a variety of literature, including multiple versions of the same story. The reader will appreciate her honest description of Lindsey's performance and reaction to the CONCEPTS OF PRINT test (Clay).

In the Prologue and Chapter 1, the reader meets the family members and learns about their conscious effort to share their favorite literature with the children, model their love of reading, encourage personalized reactions to books and other modes of communication. Chapter 2 illustrates the girls' reaction to literature via sensory experiences. Chapter 3 cites examples of Lindsey's and Ashley's reaction to the characters within texts--making connections between daily life and fiction. Chapter 4 covers the girls' reaction to specific words in literature (e.g., their enjoyment of the repetitive language in the Mother Goose rhymes, fairy tales and stories like The Three Little Pigs, Tikki Tikki Tembo and Who's in the Rabbit's House?).

The Epilogue draws attention to several questions: "How does literature shape children's cultural performances with stories?" "Can one generalize from the experiences of one child to those of other children?" "Who are those children who have a body of literature specially written and printed for them, who are aided in their interpretations by adults during intimate occasions reserved for the reading of such literature?"

Educators, researchers (from multidisciplinary fields), paraprofessionals and parents will find The Braid of Literature very informative. It should arouse the curiosity of teachers who want to learn more about ethnographic research and how literature affected Lindsey and Ashley. Researchers might be encouraged to do more longitudinal studies of this type. Parents and paraprofessionals will be interested in the narrative, the bibliography, the footnotes that reflect recent research and information and the guidelines for purchasing new books. This book confirms the positive value of literature in children's lives and the value of parental involvement in the literacy process. Reviewed by Mary Ann Dzama, Associate Professor and Reading Program Coordinator, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
COPYRIGHT 1993 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Dzama, Mary Ann
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1993
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