Simple step to a flying start in literacy
September 09 2012
Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education PhD student Susan Sim reports on findings of her study to boost literacy in pre-school learning.
Literacy in Prep year children is boosted when parents or carers ask simple questions about a book while reading it to them.
In a three-year study, 80 parents of Prep year children from three schools were split into three groups.
One group of parents was taught to interact simply with their child while reading a picture book. For example asking their child: 'What is happening in this picture?' or 'Who do you see in this picture?'
A second group was taught to build on this interaction by putting some emphasis on letters of the alphabet and sounds. For example, by pointing to each word as it was read aloud, commenting on letters of the alphabet that were repeated, and drawing attention to rhyme.
A third 'control' group was not given any intervention strategies in relation to reading but provided with a 'match the numbers' game instead.
Parents in the first two groups were given one story book per week for eight weeks, and asked to read each new book with their child at least three times per week.
In tests of the children both before and after the reading intervention, students in the first two groups showed significant advancement in their use of language and understanding of rhyme as well as print.
Even though they could not actually read, students in the second group who were taught more about printed letters of the alphabet could tell if texts were presented upside down, if full stops were missing, knew text read from left to right and also that books read from front to back covers.
Significantly, revisiting the groups after a period of three months found their skill levels in these areas remained high while the skill levels of the control group did not improve.
The skills assessed by the study, receptive and expressive vocabulary, rhyme, word completion, alphabet knowledge and concepts about print, are critical to the development of early literacy.
The study demonstrates that parents can be trained to read with their children in a way that will give their children a good start to literacy before the start of formal schooling.
Children involved in the study were Preparatory Year age, from just under five years of age to just over six.
Researchers stress it remains most important though that parents have fun with their child while reading and give their child praise and encouragement.