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Factors that influence literacy development

By stajohnjohn Feb 14, 2014 1506 Words

“Intelligence rules the world, ignorance carries the burden” (Marcus Garvey). According to Kofi Atta Annan (Order of St Michael and St George), a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and world renown author “literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential”. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines literacy as, “the ability to read and write one's own name and further for knowledge and interest, write coherently, and think critically about the written word”. However the inability to do so is called illiteracy or analphabetism. There are different types of literacy, for instance visual literacy includes in addition the ability to understand visual forms of communication such as body language, pictures, maps, and video. Evolving definitions of literacy often include all the symbol systems relevant to a particular community. Literacy encompasses a complex set of abilities to understand and use the dominant symbol systems of a culture for personal and community development. In a technological society, the concept of literacy is expanding to include the media and electronic text, in addition to alphabetic and number systems. These abilities vary in different social and cultural contexts according to need, demand and education. Literacy is a fundamental tool that students must have in order to further their academic success (Colke, 2012). Literacy can be seen as being crucial to a student’s academic achievement throughout their school years. Early problems in literacy may have a devastating effect on their later academic motivation and achievement. Some of the factors that have been observed to influence literacy development are language background, home and community environment, cognitive abilities and technology in development. Language background plays an important role in literacy development, especially in the classroom. To effectively reach all students, educators need to understand how students' patterns of communication and various dialects affect their classroom learning. They also need to know how second-language learning affects literacy acquisition (Allington, 1996). For example in Jamaica the native language, Patois, can be observed as the dominant language used throughout various households. Therefore most children do not usually encounter the full use of the English language until they enter in the school system. Although standard academic English is the language of instruction in most public schools, it is not always the language of the children in the classroom as teachers may try to reach students on their level. Patois is accordingly the first language of these children as they have been raised and become accustomed to this language, Standard English consequently becomes their second language. Many second-language learners from a wide array of languages have difficulty meeting the academic standards of the classroom, understanding the instruction, and engaging in active learning when the language of instruction is only English. In addition, when children speak varieties of English other than standard academic English, they too may encounter misunderstandings and miscommunications. Acceptance of the home language of students and identification of a process to help students move to a more standard form of English is an important part of literacy development. Delpit (1993) states, "Teachers must acknowledge and validate students' home language without using it to limit students' potential." The ways in which children communicate in their home cultures are critical to the development of written language models of reading and writing. The home language of students provides the foundation for the emergence of reading and writing behaviors (Allington, 1996). If there is a mismatch between the structures, values, and expectations of the home language and school language, children may be at a disadvantage for success in early reading tasks, and thus spend their entire school careers attempting to catch up Home and community environment is the most crucial part of a child’s early literacy life Literacy development begins in the very early stages of childhood, even though the activities of young children may not seem related to reading and writing. Early behaviors 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 reading. The theoretical and research-based knowledge of child development in general and of literacy development in particular provides an understanding of the literacy acquisition of young children and suggests strategies that can help children become successful, confident readers and writers. Parents should set up a family reading room so children can be able to read, this reading room must be creative and consist of various amount of things to read, Because this is a family reading area, it must have reading materials on hand that appeal to all family members. And the inventory doesn't need to be limited to books—magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, an atlas, the Bible, and even comic books are all appropriate. The point is that everyone has something they will be eager to read, children are also curious when they see others doing things that seems enjoyable. This is a prime example why adults need to read and allow children to see them reading and being that they are curious little being the will follow and do the same this too will help them to develop their literacy skills. Researchers Timothy Rasinski and Anthony Fredericks write: "It is crucial that children see their parents use reading for a variety of purposes, from entertainment to maintaining a job. Parents should show children the many ways that they use reading." Cognitive development is another chief element affecting literacy. When we talk about cognitive development, we refer to how children make sense of their world. They do this by building on what they already know to interpret new experiences. The economic status for example children living in poverty are more likely to have cognitive delays and learning disability than children who are born into higher income families. Parents living in poverty are most times unable to provide educational opportunities and material advantages as families who are making more money. Families living in poverty most times have unorganized homes and stressful lives that contribute to these cognitive out comes in their children. Sleep also is of vital importance in children’s lives because it directly affects their cognitive development. During the early years when a child spends more time sleeping than awake, sleeping is the main activity of the brain. For example, while your baby or toddler might be able to function just fine, besides being a bit cranky without a good night's sleep, these sleeping issues can set him up for problems later in life. Poor sleeping habits in school-age children might result in hyperactivity and poor academic performance. In addition to poverty and lack of sleep neglect affect children cognitive development. Neglect in early childhood negatively affects brain and cognitive development in the early years and has repercussions that last into adolescence and adulthood. Experiences in a child's first years are the foundation of his intelligence, personality and emotions. When a child suffers from neglect and abuse, these experiences often lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems and mental health issues that have the capability to haunt a child for the rest of his/her life. In today’s day and age the main source of communication among business places, Schools, or even by just friends, is by technology, children who are not technologically incline are automatically forced to be left behind this is so because “It provides valuable opportunities for children to tackle Practical problems which transcend arbitrary boundaries of Specialized subject areas, while inviting rich use of Imagination.” (Dunn & Larson, 1989, Parents need to start taking their children’s lives seriously and start focusing on their level of literacy even teachers need to start being more professional and help children work towards their maximum potential. “The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.” Mark Twain.


Allington, R. L. (1996). Schools that work: Where all children read and write. In R. L. Allington, Schools that work: Where all children read and write. (p. 204). New York: HarperCollins College Publishers.

Colke, L. J. (2012, Febuary 22). Literacy Development Begins at Home, With a Literate Home Environment. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from Reading is Fundamental:

Titus, M. (2012, June 21). Factors Affecting Literacy Development. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from ehow:

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