|literacy.ca||Volume 5, No. 4, Winter 2004|
In this section,we feature research highlights from the Directory of Canadian Adult Literacy Research in English. This comprehensive online resource is constantly updated to improve coordination and information-sharing among Canadian literacy practitioners and researchers. Find completed research as well as research in progress in the Directory at www.nald.ca/crd/start.htm.
Here’s a summary of one innovative family literacy research project.
Promoting Literacy Among Children From Low-Income Families
This research examined reading beliefs and proficiency in very young children and parents from low-income families in Newfoundland. Julia O’Sullivan and Mark Howe conducted a large-scale study with 702 low-income parents and 539 children, aged 4 to 8 years, As a group, these children had pre-reading and reading skills well below national averages. Although the majority of the children were not proficient readers, the sample included children who were among the most outstanding readers in Canada. This study examines why some children became excellent readers, while others did not.
The findings suggested that before Grade 2, proficient readers follow one of two independent paths to reading excellence: skill vs. will. The skill path is based on knowledge of print conventions while the will path is based on the child’s confidence in their reading ability. This article focuses on the skill path.
In this study, outstanding readers on the skill path were very knowledgeable about book and print conventions. For example, these children knew that English is read from left to right. This type of knowledge comes from interaction with and exposure to books. The implication of this finding is that even small increases in exposure to print for children living in poverty could result in considerable benefits for their reading.
The parents of the proficient readers on the skill path were distinguished by their extremely positive beliefs about their child’s competence. In every grade level, small increases in parents beliefs about their children’s competence went hand-in-hand with increases in the children’s knowledge of print conventions and, in turn, with an increase in children’s reading proficiency. This finding suggests that professional development (PD) for parents involved in family literacy programs should include an in-depth exploration of their beliefs about competent reading.
To obtain the full-text document for this study, go to the Directory of Adult Literacy Research database at www.nald.ca/crd/. At this site you will also find the recently released report called From Coast to Coast: A Thematic Summary of Canadian Adult Literacy Research. This overview of research projects identifies 10 major themes as well as gaps within Canada's body of adult literacy research. Look up this report by clicking on From Coast to Coast at the Directory website.
Reference: O’Sullivan, J. & Howe,
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