Factors that influence literacy development

Topics: Second language, English language, Literacy Pages: 5 (1506 words) Published: February 14, 2014

“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...

References: 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: http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/articles/literacy-development-begins-at-home.htm
Titus, M. (2012, June 21). Factors Affecting Literacy Development. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from ehow: http://www.ehow.com/info_8217627_factors-affecting-literacy-development.html
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