ERIC Identifier: ED457521
Publication Date: 2001-11-00
Author: Stroup, Stephen
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Parent Support of Early Literacy Development. ERIC Digest.
This Digest is intended to help parents support young children's literacy
learning. It begins with definitions of literacy, then follows with suggestions
for parent involvement in children's early literacy development. Additional
resources for supporting young literacy learners are included.
DEFINITIONS OF LITERACY
Over the years, scholars from
different disciplines have struggled to define the concept of literacy, but
little consensual agreement has been achieved (Soares, 1992). The definition of
literacy is often subject to historical, social, economic, political, and other
forces. For example, in the Middle Ages, literacy was generally associated with
the ability to speak, read, and write Latin, and only members of a few elite
groups had access to formal education or to the Latin texts in which it was
presented. By the 16th century, the invention and advancement of printing
technology in Europe, and the growing use of languages other than Latin,
resulted in an explosion in literacy levels, extending even to people of
traditionally lower social classes, such as peasants and merchants (Heath,
1996). Literacy was no longer the possession of a few selected groups, but had
become a means by which a broad spectrum of people could gain power and status.
In 1951, UNESCO defined literacy as the ability of a person "who can with
understanding both read and write a short, simple statement on his every day
life", and it revised this definition in 1978 as one's ability to "engage in
all...activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his
group and community and also for enabling him to continue to use reading,
writing, and calculation for his own and community's development." The change in
UNESCO's definition reflects a change from a narrow set of behaviors in reading
and writing to a broader sense of community functions including mathematics. In
this Digest, literacy is viewed from a socio-psycholinguistic perspective, one
in which literacy is more than the ability to read and write, but extends also
to the use of oral and written language as well as other sign systems, such as
mathematics and art, to make sense of the world and communicate with others
(Berghoff, 1998; Harste, Woodward, & Burke, 1986; Heath, 1984; Halliday,
SUGGESTIONS FOR PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN CHILDREN'S EARLY LITERACY DEVELOPMENT
Based upon the perspective of literacy provided
above, as well as upon recommendations from the National Reading Panel (2000)
and from Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read (2001) we offer the
following guidelines to help parents create a home environment that will support
the literacy development of their young children:
1. Encourage children to use literacy in meaningful and purposeful ways, such
as helping make shopping lists, drawing and writing thank-you notes, clipping
coupons for family use, and reading road maps to plan a trip together.
2. Visit libraries and bookstores frequently and encourage children to check
out materials, such as toys, tapes, CD Roms, and books, from libraries.
Participate in activities held by libraries and bookstores, such as story times,
writing contests, and summer reading programs.
3. Set aside time for reading alone or together as a family every day. Read a
wide variety of materials, such as books, magazines, signs, and labels, with and
4. Keep reading and writing materials, such as books, magazines, newspaper,
paper, markers, crayons, scissors, glues, and stickers, accessible to children
so that they can make use of these tools in a variety of language activities.
(High quality reading and writing materials are not necessarily expensive. You
can find them at school and library book fairs, yard and garage sales, online
bookstores or auctions, book-stores' on-sale sections, used or second-hand
bookstores, and charity sales [i.e., Salvation Army and Goodwill]).
5. Read books with rhymes and play language games, such as tongue twisters
and puzzles, with your children.
6. Practice the alphabet by pointing out letters wherever you see them and by
reading alphabet books.
7. Point out the letter-sound relationships your child is learning on labels,
boxes, magazines and signs.
8. Keep a notebook, in which you, as the parent, write down stories which
your children tell, so that the children see the connection between oral
language and text.
9. Be a reader and writer, yourself. Children observe and learn from people
10. Be patient and listen as your child reads books from school. Let your
child know you are proud of his or her reading.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS TO SUPPORT YOUNG CHILDREN'S LITERACY
1. Associations, organizations, and ERIC Clearinghouses
Library Association-For Kids, Parents, and Public 1301
Avenue, NW, # 403, Washington, DC. 20004
(202) 628-8410 or (800) 545-2433
Clearinghouse on Elementary & Early Childhood Education
Research Center, 51 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 333-1386 or (800) 583-4135
Clearinghouse on Reading, English, & Communication
East 10th Street, #140, Bloomington, IN 47408
(812) 855-5847; or (800) 759-4723
Center for Family Literacy
West Main Street, Suite 200
East Cold Spring Lane, Suite 211, Baltimore, MA 21239
is Fundamental, Inc.
Connecticut Avenue, N.W, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 287-3220 or (877) RIF-READ
Emerging Literacy: Young children learn to read and write edited by rothy S.
Strickland, Lesley M. Morrow, published by International Reading Assoc., 1989.
I Already Know How to Read: A Child's View of Literacy by Prisca Martens,
published by Heinemann, 1996. ISBN 0-435-07226-9
Learning to Read and Write by Susan Neuman, Carol Copple, and Sue Bredekamp,
published by National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2000.
Much More Than the ABCs: The Early Stages of Reading and Writing by Judith
Schickedanz, published by The National Association for the Education of Young
Children, 1998. ISBN 0-93598-990-0
Parent to Parent: Our Children, Their Literacy by Gerald R. Oglan &
Averil Elcombe, published by National Council of Teachers of English, 2001. ISBN
The Read-aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (5th edition), published by Penguin
Books, 2001. ISBN 0-14100-294-8
Parent News by National Parent Information Network
Parents and Children Together Online http://eric.indiana.edu/www/indexfr.html
Parents' Choice E-mail newspaper
Parent Talk Magazine http://eric.indiana.edu/www/famres/ptalk/index.shtml
Born to Read: How to Raise a Reader by American Library Association
Get Ready to Read! Tips for Parents of Young Children by International
Reading Association, 1998. http://www.reading.org/pdf/1017.pdf
Helping Your Child Become A Reader by U.S. Department of Education, 2000.
Library Safari: Tips for Parents of Young Readers and Explorers by
International Reading Association, 1999. http://www.reading.org/pdf/1032.pdf
Make the Reading-Writing Connection: Tips for Parents of Young Learners by
International Reading Association, 1999. http://www.reading.org/pdf/1038.pdf
Putting Reading First by U.S. Department of Education, 2001
See the World on the Internet: Tips for Parents of Young Readers-and
"Surfers" by International Reading Association, 1998.
Berghoff, B. (1998). Multiple sign systems and
reading. The Reading Teacher, 51 (6), 520-524.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1975). Learning how to mean: Exploration in the
development of language. London: Elsevier.
Harris, T. L. & Hodges, R. E. (Eds.). (1995). The literacy dictionary:
The vocabulary of reading and writing. Newark, DE: International Reading
Harste, J. C., Woodward, V. A. & Burke, C. L. (1986).Language stories and
literacy lessons. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Heath, S. B. (1984). Ways with words: Language, life and work in communities
and classrooms. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Heath, S. B. (1996). "The sense of being literate: Historical and
cross-cultural feature." In R. Barr, M. L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P. D.
Pearson (Eds.). Handbook of reading research, v2. p.3-25. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2000). Report of
the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based
Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its implications
for Reading Instruction [Online]. Available:
Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read, (2001). The Partnership
for Reading: National Institute for Literacy; National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development; and U.S. Department of Education.
Short, K. G., Harste, J. C. & Burke, C. L. (1996). Creating classrooms
for authors and inquirers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Soares, M. B. (1992). Literacy assessment and its implication for statistical
measurement. Paper prepared for Division of Statistics, UNESCO, Paris.