Communication Language and Literacy Further Reading

We hope you find these suggestions for further reading helpful.  We have provided links where appropriate, but in many cases a subscription will be required to access a particular research article.  Where an article is available without charge on another website, we have included a link to that for your information.  In the case of subscription articles, we do not recommend any particular provider and suggest that you use the information provided below to help you identify the most appropriate research source for you.

Bialystok, E., Luk, G. and Kwan, E. (2005) Bilingualism, Biliteracy and Learning to Read: Interactions Among Languages and Writing Systems, Scientific Studies of Reading, 9:1, 43-61.

A significant number are bilingual at the time they begin reading, many are instructed in a language they do not speak at home, and some number of those are expected to acquire this skill in two languages. This study focused on young bilingual children (and a group of monolingual speakers of English), comparing differences in literacy tasks.  All the bilingual children used both languages daily and were learning to read in both languages. The findings showed that the children solved decoding and phonological awareness tasks, the bilinguals completed all tasks in both languages. The results showed a general increment in reading ability for all the bilingual children but a larger advantage for children learning two alphabetic systems. Similarly, bilinguals transferred literacy skills across languages only when both languages were written in the same system.

Drury, R. (2007) Young Bilingual Learners at Home and at School. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.

This book examines the experiences of three four-year-old bilingual children as they begin school in three English nursery classes, providing insights into young children’s use of first languages as well as English. The book reveals some of the ways young bilingual children experience nursery as they begin to learn the language required for formal schooling, demonstrating how they take control of their own learning at home. And it asks how Samia, Maria and Nazma find their own way through nursery? What are their individual strategies for getting by and, beyond that, for learning during their first year of formal schooling? How do they syncretise home and school learning? The detailed picture that emerges fills in the detail missing from the current over-generalised view of bilingual children in the early years and provides an important new perspective to a growing body of literature on young bilinguals. It will be essential reading for all teachers, early childhood practitioners and early years policy makers operating in multilingual environments.

Kenner, C. (2004) Becoming Biliterate: Young Children Learning Different Writing Systems. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

This publication will help early years educators to understand how children learn, in parallel, to write in more than one language. Case studies of six-year-olds growing up bilingual reveal the processes involved in becoming biliterate, showing how children s learning is supported in home and community contexts. Six children in the study were observed learning Chinese, or Arabic, or Spanish as well as English as they engaged in literacy activities at home, community language school and primary school over one year. Parents and teachers were interviewed about children’s literacy experiences in each context and their progress in learning. Particular insight into children s thinking was gained by observing peer teaching sessions in which children taught their primary school classmates how to write in Chinese, Arabic or Spanish. The research described here shows clearly that young children are flexible learners who can understand how different writing systems operate and produce symbols in different scripts, transforming their understandings to create their own ideas about how writing works.

Hvit, S. (2015) Literacy events in toddler groups: Preschool educators’ talk about their work with literacy among toddlers. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 15(3) 311–330.

This study explores children’s spontaneous literacy activities in a Swedish preschool. The first theme is doing literacy: toddlers’ bodily and material manifestations. The second theme covers the educators’ educational manner and the educators’ construction of literacy: a playful and material approach based on values and traditions. Finally, these themes are discussed in relation to the educators’ professional language, concrete and contextual literacy events, material aspects and a view of toddlers as literate persons in their own right. The study contributes to a wider discussion about toddlers’ everyday activities and interest in written language. It suggests that in order for work with literacy among toddlers to be based on the child, professional language that highlights toddlers’ ways of expression from a broad perspective of what it is to be literate, is needed.

Suggate, S  (2015) The Parable of the Sower and the long-term effects of early reading, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 23:4, 524-544

This paper reviews research that suggests that early reading shows only short-term effects for reading skills that later wash out. The ‘Luke Effect’ represents a significant shift in the way early reading is perceived – this can be summarised as viewing readiness not as capability but as long-term advantage. Suggate explains that ‘based on different developmental trajectories of language and word recognition skills (WRS), it is hypothesised that: (1) children who learn to read later acquire WRS more readily; and (2) acquiring WRS earlier does not improve language development. Thus, reading instruction falling ‘on good soil [produces] a hundred times as much grain’, but early reading skills do not improve the soil, simply withering until children’s language is more developed’. Interesting reading for teachers and practitioners in English early years education…

Weigel, D., Martin, S. and Bennett, K. (2006) Mothers’ literacy beliefs: Connections with the home literacy environment and pre-school children’s literacy development. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 6(2) 191–211.

Data was collected from 79 mothers and their children over one year. Analysis allowed this study to examine mothers’ beliefs about literacy development, the association of those beliefs with other aspects of the home literacy environment, and connections between parental literacy beliefs and pre-school aged children’s literacy development. Two parental profiles of parental literacy beliefs emerged. ‘Facilitative’ mothers believed that taking an active role in teaching children at home would provide opportunities for their children to gain vocabulary, knowledge, and morals. ‘Conventional’ mothers expressed the belief that schools, more than parents, are responsible for teaching children and tended to report many challenges to reading with children. Homes with Facilitative mothers tended to be more literacy enriching than homes of Conventional mothers, and children with Facilitative mothers displayed more advanced print knowledge and interest in reading. These findings have implications for understanding the connections among parental literacy beliefs, home literacy environments, and children’s literacy outcomes.

Song Kim, M.  (2014) The multi-literacy development of a young trilingual child: four leading literacy activities from birth to age six. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 22:2, 154-168.

Many young children in inner-city early years settings either speak (or have begun to write) in more than one language. This interesting qualitative study investigates one young trilingual child’s meaning- making processes and the multiple modes she uses to make meanings. The study reports the results of a combination of ethnographic observations and a longitudinal case study from birth to age six. It reveals the child’s developing multi-literacies including, (1) gesture/graphic gesture (drawings which are gesture-like in function) in free play; (2) gesture/ speech in make-believe play; (3) speech/graphic speech (drawings as representations of objects) in pretend play and (4) writing/multimodality in rule-based play. The findings reflect Vygotsky’s (1978) idea ‘that children’s literacy development occurs concurrently, interrelatedly rather than sequentially as they become more competent at using and creating semiotic tools (defined as psychological tools) through social interactions for communication and participation in a particular sociocultural context. This research has important implications for literacy in early childhood policies and practice in England and elsewhere.

Norling, M., Sandberg, A. and Almqvist, L. (2015): Engagement and emergent literacy practices in Swedish preschools, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 1-16.

There is widespread acceptance among researchers and early years teachers and practitioners, of the importance of play in early childhood. However, in England the current emphasis on synthetic phonics and the teaching of narrow skills for literacy contrasts sharply with play. Refreshingly this Swedish study emphasises emergent literacy, which has a long history of research reaching back to the early 1970s in England and internationally. This 2015 paper investigated children’s engagement and the staff’s approach in emergent literacy activities. The findings showed that a positive climate in everyday activities as well as instruction and language modelling were the only quality dimensions that significantly contributed to children’s engagement. The study concludes that ‘more emphasis probably needs to be placed on how to take advantage of and respond to children’s own thoughts, as well as how to use these things to promote children’s early literacy skills and increase their engagement in both teacher- and child-initiated activities’.

Marsh, J. (1999) Batman and Batwoman go to School: popular culture in the literacy curriculum.International Journal of Early Years Education, 7:2, 117-131.

This study investigated the effects of an adult-planned theme from popular culture into a role-play area, focusing on its impact on children’s literacy activities. The findings provided a vision of how inclusive classrooms could be if teachers engaged in the dialogic process of children’s sub-cultures, and acknowledge the inherent pleasures they bring. The ‘Batman and Batwoman HQ’ provided opportunities for a number of children to push the boundaries of their marginality from the usual discourses of the classroom, motivating children who were not usually interested in either playing in role play areas, writing or both. It created a rich classroom environment that stimulated a wealth of literacy activities over a sustained period of time and raised issues of class, ethnicity and gender.

Kendrick, M. and McKay, R. (2004) Drawings as an alternative way of understanding young children’s constructions of literacy. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 2004; 4; 109.

The current, narrow view of literacy in England is not shared by authors of this article, who argue for a wider and more generous view of literacy, ‘one that allows for a full range of human experience… [observing] It is only in schools that students are restricted to using one sign system at a time.’ The authors found that the children in this study produced unique texts into which their personal and social histories were woven. The children’s drawings provided a glimpse into the ‘spontaneous concepts’ being developed by the children in relation to literacy in their lives, both inside and outside of school.

Rahat Naqvi, R., McKeough, A., Thorne, K. and Pfitscher, C. (2012)  Dual-language books as an emergent-literacy resource: Culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, December 2013; vol. 13(4), 501-528.

The findings of this Canadian research suggests a rethinking of classroom practice based on family support and a subtle shift in the balance of authority and expertise among teachers, children and families. This broader perspective on emergent literacy builds on minority languages that represents a step towards addressing the cognitive and sociocultural complexities of becoming literate within a culturally and linguistically rich environment.

Marsh, J. (2003) One-way Traffic? Connections between Literacy Practices at Home and in the Nursery. British Educational Research Journal, 29(3), 389-362.

 This small-scale study examined the home literacy practices of a group of 3 and 4 year-old children in a working-class community, and explored how far these practices were reflected in the curriculum of the nursery the children attended. The findings show that there was a dissonance between out-of-school and schooled literacy practices. Children’s literacy practices in the home were focused on media and popular cultural texts and the article argues for greater recognition of these contemporary cultural practices in early years policy documentation and curriculum guidance.

Reese, E., Sparks, A. and Leyva, D. (2010) A review of parent interventions for preschool children’s language and emergent literacy. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 10(1) 97–117.

How do parents’ interventions for their children’s learning through parent-training programmes support their child’s understandings? This article reviews parents’ involvement in three contexts: parent–child book-reading; parent–child conversations; and parent–child writing, concluding that the studies provide a body of evidence that supports the value of implementing parent interventions for children’s early learning.


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