Home Influences The Childs Improvement At School Education Essay

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This project work is about the meaning of family literacy practices and how the child's home literacy experiences influenced the child's improvement at school. It concerned on the families view of the home literacy and its importance to create child's imagination and his\her confidence at classroom. Thus the investigation has been narrowed down on the following questions:

What does family literacy mean?

What are the characteristics of the child's home experiences?

How are the interactions between home and school characterized?

To put on another way, I hope to find out from my work the differences between the child learns at home before going to school and another one goes to school directly.

My investigation based on the theoretical frameworks of emergent literacy, family literacy, and school improvement.

The ideas underpinning my study:

The term family literacy is used in several ways: (1) to describe the study of literacy in the family, (2) to describe a set of interventions related to literacy development of young children, and (3) to refer to a set of programs designed to enhance the literacy skills of more than one family member (Britto & Brooks-Gunn, 2001; Handel, 1999; Wasik et al., 2000).

So at this work we focused on the first and second sense. The children's interactions with others and in an environment of printed language, they try to work out the many forms, functions and meanings of 'literacy' which was once defined as the ability to read and write. It was considered a set of neutral and objective skills independent of social context or ideology (Street, 1995; Verhoeven & Snow, 2001). Ethnographic research has shed light on a wide range of culturally specific literacy practices among different communities (Bowman, 2002; Delgado-Gaitan, 1990; Heath, 1983; Valdés, 1996).

Before children go to school, most of them will have encountered different ideas about what learning to read and write involves and will be aware of different expectations about when they will be accepted as readers and writers by those around them. Children will use many methods to work out what adults are doing with newspapers, books, pens, word processors and all the other things associated with literacy, and will join the adult literate world in different ways.

Through their daily interactions at home and in the community children have developed some reader-like and writer-like behaviors. They are beginning to understand how reading and writing are defined by their community, how it affects people's lives and what literacy will do for them. The young child's first discoveries reading and writing have been termed 'emergent literacy' by some (e.g.Teale and Sulzby, 1988) which is an expression that captures how children who live in a literate community are in the process of becoming literate almost from birth. They are learners who are participating in the language around them; finding out what it means to be a speaker, reader and writer in the community in which they live.

According to that what writing and reading practices do children see during their early years and how do their earl experiences of literacy affect their development as writers and readers? Deny Taylor made an intensive study of literacy practices among educated, literate households in the USA. She observed a range of literacy events - social events in which reading and writing play a significant role and described the ways in which adults introduce literacy to young children as 'an idiosyncratic process which can result in very different experiences for individual children who are nevertheless successful in learning to read' ( Taylor, 1983).

Many of the interactions with print will happen in combination with different types of talk, oral reading of family letter, discussion of the day's events, or argument over a cereal packet offer perhaps and many will combine both reading and writing. Importantly, most of activities are not about reading or writing, but rather they concern the social organization of people's lives. Some activities will be compulsory, others will be associated with particular family members, and few may have restricted access. Together the events provide a 'filter through which the social organization of the everyday lives of the families is accomplished' (Taylor, 1983). Taylor makes the point that children are not only learning about reading and writing, they are learning a lot about family life and purposes that reading and writing serve.

A number of ethnographic studies have been published over the last decade showing differences in literacy practices. For example, Anderson and Stokes's study of preschool children's experiences of literacy in San Diego, USA, categorized their data into domains of literacy that included: daily living; entertainment; school related activity; religion; general information; work; literacy techniques and skills; interpersonal communication; and storybook time. There were different ethnic groups represented in the study: black American, Mexican American and Anglo-American. Anderson and Stokes found considerable variation in the experiences that families had with literacy across the domains. All had some contact with print and the differences in the types of literacy experience were not determined by the ethnic background of the families. Where differences in patterns of literacy activity did emerge between families was in length of time spent on activity. The Anglo-American child tended to participate in a larger number of print related activities but would not spend more time overall involved with print. Put the other way, children from Mexican or black American homes tended to engage in fewer literacy activities but these could be expected to last longer.

Shirley Heath's work is contrast in behavior between three literate and geographically close communities. Her focus was on 'any occasion in which a piece of writing is integral to the nature of the participants' interactions and their interpretive processes' (Heath, 1982). She observed closely three communities in the American Piedmont Carolinas that she called Trackton, Roadville and Maintown. All of the communities were English speaking and all the observed literacy was in English. Her findings showed how children learn from their culture different means of using and making sense of print and different ways of relating their knowledge of the world through talk and writing. In her words, communities introduce children to different 'ways of talking' meaning from literacy events.

Children in the middle class community in her study, Maintown, learned about literacy in an environment filled with print and information derived from print. From six months on, these children heard and responded to books and referred to book related incidents in their interactions. As they got older, Maintown children learned certain rules about book reading, such as interruptions are allowed and the types of questions that can be asked. They also learned ways of talking about texts and began to use types of language structures more often heard in books than in speech. All this as a useful introduction to the practices they later encountered in school.

At first, Maintown seemed to have much in common with the second community, Roadville, a white working class community whose members had worked for four generations in the textile mills. Here, as in Maintown, books played a central role in children's lives and their rooms full of alphabet friezes, mobiles and the like. The difference that Heath notes is in the use of books as teaching opportunities, times when children 'got it right' rather than as opportunities for stories to be explored. The world of books entered far less into 'real life', and book reading was less interactive between adult and child, especially when a child reached school age.

The third community, Trackton has a black working class community, historically connected with agriculture but more recently with the textile mills. A Trackton child did not experience the baby paraphernalia of mobiles, friezes and pop up books. The rich language opportunities came not from books, but from adult talk and oral narratives. A child who experimented with adult reading and writing behaviors was not seen as doing anything of special interest. But the environment was far from lacking literacy and children often arrived at school able to recognize much environmental print. Reading in Trackton was not a private affair; it was highly social, a time for discussion and negotiation of meaning. A letter, a set of instructions or a story might be interpreted, reshaped and reworked through a lot of talk.

The types of contrasts drawn among the different communities reflect the range of interactions possible under a label such as 'reading a book' or 'writing a letter'. Each of the three communities intertwined talk and writing in very different ways.

So each community varies in the types of literacy events that are thought important and in the ways that people interact with print related activities. Children appear highly motivated to work out the part that literacy plays in their immediate world, and many lessons about literacy will have been learned before formal schooling begins.

The methods I used and my reasons for choosing them.

As planned, I focused on family literacy, so I concerned on two families who have children in the same age and same classroom. They are from working class community. The children are 9 years; they are in preschool at level three. The two families are different in their view of early learning at home, and the importance of parent's role to improve the child skills before going to school. They were chosen because they met the following criteria:

Parental willingness and ability to participate,

The two children are appropriate for this project work,

Lack of shyness.

Data was collected from families interviewed, children interviewed, teacher interviewed, the observation of two children at home and classroom and work sample.

An account of my conduct of the investigation:

Vygotsky said that 'what the child can do in co-operation today, he can do alone tomorrow' (Vygotsky, 1962)

From this point I begun my work, I chose two families are neighbors, working-class, having one child at preschool and in the same classroom

The first family, Adam's family saw the importance of the child's early home experiences before going to the school, but the second family, Farid's family saw the child was gained his experiences from the school. According to that I observed the differentiated between the two children at home with their parents and at classroom with their teacher. I observed the improvement of Adam at classroom and his participation with the teacher. At home, I saw his interaction with his parents and the games he likes to play with his father. In contrast, I observed Farid's hesitation at classroom, and his little participation with teacher, his relation with his parent and the talk between each other, the games he likes to play alone or with his father.

I observed the reading of the both children, and the importance of the bedtime story for them. The most observation had been made the connection between the parents and children's school, and how the parents have an affective role in the child's improvement at school.

In my project work, the families refused to publish their names or children's school name, just children's name, so I mentioned to the two families with their children's names.

My findings, and how these relate to particular issues in the course:

Some believed that children begin to learn to read only when they start the school. Instead, in the industrialized world pre school children spend their lives in print saturated surroundings and learn much of the form and function of written language before they start the school. The experience of hearing stories read aloud is widely recognized as one which gives uniquely powerful lessons about literacy (Holdaway, 1975, Scollon and Scollon 1979, Meek, 1982)

In psycholinguistic terms, the listening child is developing a familiarity with the meanings and linguistic forms of printed texts which will materially assist the child in later attempts to read, that is to make sense of written texts on his own. Through his experience of stories read aloud, he is developing a store of useful 'information in the head', to use Smith's term, that will enable him to be less dependent on the 'information on the page' (Smith 1971). In the sociolinguistic terms he is learning something of the functions that written language can perform, something of what Halliday calls 'functional extension' that written language can provide (Halliday, 1978). And, of course, he is learning the powerful literary satisfactions that books can give.

To look closely and systematically at the complex patterning of the verbal to and fro between mother and child reveals how this enables the child to come into possession of the language and meanings of this particular written genre.

For example when I made interview with Adam's mother about when she started to read aloud to Adam she told me that she began when he was at the age two and he was listening well to his mother he started to participate with his mother in story and asking question and tried to read at age three, she told me when he was at age four he came from his Kindergarten with a story about the aliens and star war and he insisted to read it with her. Then, she began reading it and he began to asked question about the aliens and space.

M: ready to begin the story

A: yes, who is the alien? Are they like us?

M: No, they are strange beings; they may be having three eyes or one.

A: Ok, start to read

M: One cold and dark night, Jack saw a strong light came from the sky and then heard a strong voice, he was afraid and went to his parent to tell them, but they didn't believe him, and her mother told him it was dream

Adam interrupted his mother and said

A: I saw a strong light came from the sky, this mean I saw a space ship has aliens?

Adam's mother told me this story influenced on Adam's thoughts for a long time, and he liked to draw the aliens in the story.

In contrast, when I interviewed Farid's mother and asked her the same question she told us she began read with Farid when he went to the school, when he was reading assessment she was helping him to read, so she did not remember she read to him before that. As Well argued there are a number of reasons about the importance of reading stories to children. Firstly, in listening to stories aloud at the age of 2, 3 and 4 long before they can read themselves, children are already beginning to gain experience of the sustained meaning building organization of written language and its characteristic rhythm and structures. So, when they come to read books for themselves, they will find the language familiar.

Second, through stories, children vicariously extend the range of their experience far beyond the limits of their immediate surroundings. In the process, they develop a much richer mental model of the world and a vocabulary with which to talk about…. (Well, 1986). He also suggests that stories also provide a good point for collaborative talk between children and parents. The parents helps the child to explore his\her own world in the light of what happens in the story and to use child's own experience to understand the significance of the events that are recounted. Such talk and stories that give raise to it also validation for the child's own inner telling story. (Well, 1986).

According to my finding, the importance of reading early to the child influences the child's improvement at school. When I observed the two children at class I found that Adam participated with the teacher and tried to answer the questions she asked, on another way, Farid sometimes hesitated in reading when teacher asked him for and he could not answer the teacher's question about his reading. For example, one day there was discussion about the eclipse, teacher asked Farid to read one paragraph and Adam read the second paragraph, I discovered that Adam's reading is more better than Farid's, and I felt that Adam understood what he read but Farid lost some of the words in the text. When the teacher began to discuss the two paragraphs and asked questions about them, Adam put up his finger most times, in contrast, Farid raised his finger few times.

(Example from transcript discussion at the classroom)

T: Farid read first paragraph about the eclipse, please.

Farid started reading but he stopped many times because there are strange words for him.

F: an eclipse happens when the light of the sun or moon di……di………(5 second pauses)

Teacher read the word for Farid to complete the paragraph.

T: Disappears, who could tell me the meaning of this word?

Some children raised their fingers including Adam, but another child answered the question.

Teacher asked Adam to continue instead of Farid.

A: disappears completely or in part. There are two types these. There are eclipses of the moon (lunar) and of the sun (solar).

The teacher stopped Adam's reading and began to discussion the lesson.

T: when does a lunar eclipse occur?

The students raised their fingers but the teacher asked Farid to answer, he stand up but he could not answer.

F: mm….uh uh, I do not know.

T: ok, could you Adam answer?

A: mm…it occurs when the earth is between the sun and moon.

T: good Adam.

At this point, I found that the early literacy practices at home influenced the child's improvement at class and his understanding of what he reads or writes. As Heath's study of three different communities as I mentioned before, she contrasts the way young children learn about narrative and reading in these communities, and suggests that these may have a profound effect on their educational experience and success. (Heath, 1983)

It is clear that what children observe about their community's writing system involves much more than the written script used in one particular community. Children explore numbers, letters, musical notation, and their own invented signs all occur in collections of emergent writing. Bissex (1984) found in her studies of children's writing that development in pictorial representation and use of symbols was highly noticeable in many children's early writing.

Various researchers have looked at samples of children's writing and tried to describe what children are doing. Marie Clay (1975), for example, who has studied writing development extensively in New Zealand, talks about various principles that she observed children exploring in their writing. These included:

The message concept

The copying principle, when children start copying symbols.

The directional principle, when children start writing in a particular way across and down the page.

The inventory principle, where children list all the symbols they know

The space principle, where children explore ways of separating words.

Yetta Goodman (1984), whose studies were mainly based in the USA, also identifies principles that guide children's emerging writing. Her framework suggests three overlapping principles controlling writing development: functional, relational and linguistic. The functional strand refers to a child's learning about how language is used, for example, labeling pictures or sending invitations. The relational strand captures a child's attempts to find out how written language corresponds with the world, for instance, whether there is a relationship between the size of an object and the length of a word. Finally, the linguistic principle includes children's explorations of how different types of language require different types of language structures, for example, Dear mum marks the beginning of a letter.

Goodman views the children's writing development as a process of hypothesis making, experimentation and then refinement of hypotheses. As Clay put it: 'the young child, who in the past was assumed to be incompetent, has emerged as an active participant in the process of becoming a writer' (Clay, 1983).

For that, when I asked Adam's parent about when Adam began his writing experience, his father said that when Adam was at age 4 before he went to Kindergarten. He played with him with letters shapes, Adam asked his father to teach him the letters of his name, so he started to learn write some words before kindergarten, but some of words were written as he said. In contrast, Farid's parent said that Farid learnt the letters and how to use them to make a word at his kindergarten and then at his school.

The final section on this work focused on the interaction between the school and home. From this project, I found that the parents have to share with the school to improve the child's skills and literacy experiences, so from my observation of two families I found that the two families are participating in school meetings to learn how to improve the child's skills.

Farid's parent asked his teacher to give him readings and writings assessments to improve his reading and writing skills and his confidence to participate with the teacher at the class.

An evaluation of my work on the project:

The above analyses indicate that the project work is on whole closely related to the initial research questions.

My investigation shows that the meaning of family literacy practices and the importance of the child's early learning at home before going to school. As Huey (1908) said 'the secret of it all lies in the parents' reading aloud and with the child'.

So reading to child before his\her going to school is important for his\her improvement at school, as Heath's study of different three communities clarified. And as Well in his research draws very strong conclusions about what kind of home experiences prepare children well for the literacy practices of school.

Nevertheless, we should bear in mind that my findings are tentative because they are based on only a two samples. There are a lot of points were considered at this project work will be useful for other researches about the family literacy and its importance for our children.


Halliday, (1978) language as social semiotic

Scollen, and Scollen (1979) 'the literate tow year old: the fictionalization of self'

Smith, (1971) understanding reading

Vygotsky, (1962) thought and language

Wells, (1981) 'describing children's linguistic development at home and at school'

Meek, (1982) learning to read

Rumelhart, (1976) 'toward an interactive reading'

Heath, (1982) 'what no bedtime story means: narrative skills at home and school'

Taylor, (1983) 'family literacy: conservation and change in the transmission of literacy styles and values'

Appendix 1

Adam and his mother read story about aliens and star war, when he was at 4 age

M: ready to begin the story

A: yes, who is the alien? Are they like us?

M: No, they are strange beings; they may be having three eyes or one.

A: Ok, start to read

M: One cold and dark night, Jack saw a strong light

Came from the sky and then heard a strong voice, he was afraid and went to his parent to tell them, but they didn't believe him, and her mother told him it was dream

Adam interrupted his mother and said

A: I saw a strong light came from the sky, this mean I saw a space ship has aliens?

M: no, this is a magic story; we couldn't see aliens, because they are far from here.

A: mm, I see, please continue.

M: Jack was afraid and he couldn't sleep, then he heard voices came from his garden, but he couldn't get up from the bed

Adam interrupted his mother again and asked her

A: what does the space ship look like? Is it big?

M: what do you see in the picture?

A: it is very big; can I ride it when I grow?