Fostering Language and Literacy in Classrooms and Homes David K. Dickinson and Patton O. Tabors
"Portions of this article were excerpted from D.K. Dickinson and P.O. Tabors, eds. Beginning Literacy with Language: Young Children Learning at Home and School (Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 2001)
Reprinted by permission from Young Children, 57 (2). By David Dickinson & Patton O. Tabors. Copyright © 2002 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Material can only be used with permission from the National Association for the Education of Young Children."
“This article discusses how early childhood programs can make a difference through classroom-based experiences and by efforts of preschool staff to help parents communicate with their children in ways that build the language skills critical to early literacy. We do not discuss developing phonemic awareness or knowledge of the alphabet and other print-based activities in the classroom, not because they are of less importance, but because we wish to highlight the importance of oral language. In the rush to embrace literacy in early childhood settings, we fear that oral language may be overlooked. We based our study on the theoretical assumption that rich language experiences during the preschool years play an important role in ensuring that children are able to read with comprehension when they reach middle school.” …..
“Another cluster of language skills is needed when people must make sense of words without all these immediate supports. They need to understand language apart from the face-to-face contexts where it is produced. For such occasions people need skill in constructing extended discourse that conveys new information that is not available from what one can see and hear. Later academic work, including comprehension of most texts, requires these abilities. We expected that certain experiences would build the specialized kinds of language skills that children need to become literate. Indeed, our analyses of homes and classrooms revealed three dimensions of children’s experiences during the preschool and kindergarten years that are related to later literacy success:
• Exposure to varied vocabulary. Knowing the “right word” is vital if one is to communicate information clearly. Large vocabularies have long been known to be linked to reading success (e.g., Anderson & Freebody 1981); they also are a signal that children are building the content knowledge about the world that is so critical to later reading (Neuman 2001).
• Opportunities to be part of conversations that use extended discourse. Extended discourse is talk that requires participants to develop understandings beyond the here and now and that requires the use of several sentences to build a linguistic structure, such as in explanations, narratives, or pretend talk.
• Home and classroom environments that are cognitively and linguistically stimulating. Children are most likely to experience conversations that include comprehensible and interesting extended discourse and are rich with vocabulary when their parents are able to obtain and read good books and when their teachers provide classrooms with a curriculum that is varied and stimulating….”