Date of Award

1-1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Rohl

Abstract

This study investigates both the literacy-related knowledge of two groups of children beginning their preprimary education and the literacy-related practices identified by their parents as taking place in their homes. The two groups of children were attending preprimary centres located in different suburbs of Perth; one was in a low socio-economic status northern suburb and the other was in a high socio-economic status inner metropolitan suburb. The results of a questionnaire about family literacy practices showed that there was a wide range of literacy-related practices and materials available in the majority of the households involved in the study. The results of assessment of the literacy-related knowledge of the children showed that the children had begun to develop knowledge in some areas of emergent literacy which have been shown by previous research to predict success in learning to read. These areas of knowledge were: recognition of letters of the alphabet, vocabulary, environmental print, concepts of print and grammatical and phonological awareness. Statistically significant differences were found between the mean scores for both groups of children for each of the assessment tasks measuring literacy-related knowledge. Observation of the parent responses to the questionnaire, indicated that there were also differences between the home literacy practices of the two groups in the frequency of joint book reading, the number of classes (other than preprimary) attended by the children, computer use and the parents' expectations of their child's eventual level of education. Several aspects of the children's literacy-related knowledge (identification of letters of the alphabet, vocabulary, phonological awareness and grammatical awareness), were found to have statistically significant relationships with the home factors of frequency of joint book reading, teaching the letters of the alphabet, playing word and letter games, computer use and parent's level of education. The results of this study have implications for teachers who are attempting to implement early intervention programs or planning for individual children in their classes. The methods of assessment of young children's literacy-related knowledge need to be carefully chosen to be appropriate to the age and developmental level of the children. The tasks involved should measure specific areas of knowledge identified as predicting success in learning to read. The results of this study indicate that teachers may have children with a wide range of literacy-related knowledge entering their preprimary classes. In order to build on the skills and knowledge which these children bring with them, teachers need to acknowledge the rich and diverse context of home literacy practices rather than attempt to overcome the differences.

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