Monday, September 8, 2008

Topic: Emergent Literacy

Ten-Second Review: Children know much about reading and writing well before they are instructed formally in reading and writing.

Title: “The Sociocognitive Construction of Written Genres in First Grade.” Marilyn C. Chapman. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1995), pp. 164-192. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote: “The current paradigm for early writing is one of ‘emergent literacy,’ a paradigm that considers learning to read and write as interrelated processes beginning long before formal instruction. Emergent literacy research has helped educators recognize that children learn a considerable amount about written language when they are immersed in literate environments in which they have opportunities for observations of others using written language, for literate interactions with adults and for independent exploration of written language.”

Comment: Give young children plenty of examples of adults reading and writing with them and they will know quite a lot about reading and writing when teachers begin formal instruction. We knew that, right? Still, it’s good to be told again. We’ve always emphasized reading to children, but what about writing with children?

Note: I put “literate environments” in the above quote in italics. Now, I know what the author means: plenty of children’s books and magazines in the home, plenty of opportunities to write informally, reading to children, etc. But the definition of “literate” is a person who can read and write. Environments cannot do either. So I sent a letter to the then president of the NCTE, who had used the term in one of her articles, suggesting that the concept be labeled differently, so English teachers would not be criticized as illiterate. Boy, did she blister me. That told me, Do not criticize the Great Mahoffs of the NCTE. I never learned my lesson. I kept on doing it. And they kept on vilifying me. More about that later. It was kind of fun. RayS.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I totally get what they mean by "literate environment", and I still like the term, despite it being true that an environment cannot be literate. What is meant is that the child be raised in an environment where literacy is encouraged by books, magazines, writing materials, etc., in the home.
I would like to make the point, though, that just having the materials around is not enough. Reading and writing WITH your children is very important. In specific, research by Grover Whitehurst has shown that a technique called "dialogic reading" is very successful at developing emergent literacy skills and expanding a child's vocabulary. A large vocabulary aids people with reading comprehension.