Emergent Literacy Support in Early Childhood Education

Topics: Early childhood education, Preschool education, Kindergarten Pages: 15 (3975 words) Published: April 10, 2014
Emergent literacy support in early childhood education in selected preschools of Kasempa and Solwezi Districts of Northwestern Province, Zambia Thomas M. Zimba
M.Ed. in Literacy & Learning, Department of Language and Social Science Education, School of Education, University of Zambia, 2011
This study examined emergent literacy support in early childhood education. The study focused on preschool classroom practices, which operationally defined included the classroom environment, literacy instruction programme, instructional materials and regular classroom activities. The objective of the study was to find out the extent to which preschool classroom practices supported the continuation of emergent literacy in preschool children, particularly in Kasempa and Solwezi.

26 preschool teachers and 8 preschool administrators drawn from 8 preschools in Kasempa and Solwezi districts constituted the sample. A total 680 preschoolers were part of the classroom environments in which naturalistic observations were conducted. The data were collected through questionnaires for preschool teachers, designed to capture preschool teachers’ knowledge of emergent literacy and classroom practices. Questionnaires were also administered to preschool administrators and these were designed to capture the schools’ profile on their teachers, philosophy on literacy instruction and availability of teaching and learning materials. For the naturalistic observation of actual classroom sessions, data were gathered with the aid of a Classroom Literacy Checklist. Further data were collected using semi-structured follow-up interviews to fill in any gaps from questionnaires and observations. The findings were that all the preschools investigated had low literacy support as a result of limited language and literacy opportunities for the children and paucity of learning and play materials. Lack of the preschool teachers’ appreciation of emergent literacy rendered them unable to fully provide environments and practices that support emergent literacy. 1

Background: The concept emergent literacy was introduced in 1966 by a New Zealand researcher Marie Clay in her doctoral thesis entitled Emergent Reading Behaviour but the term was coined by William Teale and Elizabeth Sulzby in 1986. The term was used to describe the behaviours seen in young children whereby they imitate adults’ reading and writing activities, even though the children cannot actually read and write in the conventional sense. The development of the emergent literacy perspective can be traced from the reading readiness perspective.

In the four decades since Clay's introduction of this term, an extensive body of research has expanded the understanding of emergent literacy. According to current research, children's literacy development begins long before they start formal instruction in elementary school; it begins at birth and continues through the preschool years even though the activities of young children may not seem related to reading and writing. Early behaviours such as "reading" from pictures and "writing" with scribbles are examples of emergent literacy and are an important part of children's literacy development. With the support of parents, caregivers, early childhood educators, and teachers, as well as exposure to a literacy-rich environment, children successfully progress from emergent to conventional literacy. In other words their growth from emergent to conventional literacy is influenced by their continuing literacy development, their understanding of literacy concepts, and the efforts of parents, caregivers, and teachers to promote literacy. It proceeds along a continuum, and children acquire literacy skills in a variety of ways and at different ages. Children's skills in reading and writing develop at the same time and are interrelated rather than sequential. Educators can promote children's understanding of reading and writing by...

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