Beginning Literacy with Language: Young Children Learning at Home and School / Edition 1

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In this exciting new book, you'll travel into the homes and schools of over 70 young children from diverse backgrounds and observe parent-child and teacher-child interactions. Through research gathered in the Home School Study of Language and Literacy Development, the authors share with you the relationship they've found between these critical, early interactions and children's kindergarten language and literacy skills. You'll explore both the home and school environments of these children at ages 3, 4, and 5. You'll see how families talk to their young children during everyday activities like book reading, toy play, and mealtimes. You'll also examine children's conversations throughout the classroom day and consider how teachers strive to support children's development. In each chapter, you'll see how the data was collected read actual transcripts of parent-child and teacher- child interactions recognize how these interactions relate to later development get suggestions for supporting children's language and literacy development learn how these findings play out in the lives of four of the children in the study Find out how young children's home and classroom experiences during the preschool years are related to their kindergarten language and literacy skills, and discover the kinds of conversations that make a difference.

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Editorial Reviews

Courtney Cazden

"Pay attention to the title! Beginning Literacy with Language is the bottom-line message of this longitudinal research on the language and literacy development of Head Start children all the way from preschool through 7th grade. Rich oral language opportunities matter a lot, at home and maybe even more at school. An encouraging and inspiring account of how schools, in early childhood and beyond, can make a difference."

Edward Zigler

"Vivid descriptions and thoughtful explanations of language development in young children. The book has great value to social scientists studying this enticing field. It also conveys a valuable message to parents and early childhood educators that their everyday interactions with small children form the abilities they will need to achieve literacy as they progress through formal schooling."

Education Review

"Parents who are interested in day-to-day interaction opportunities will find the 'suggestions for parents' sections helpful, as they provide ideas without a lot of technical jargon and research methodologies. Educators will applaud this book for the in-depth research, references, statistics, charts, and actual classroom observations and transcripts. Professors in an academic Education Department may also wish to review a copy for use in an early childhood education curriculum."

Harvard Educational Review

"An excellent resource for an academic course on child development, as it presents a broad picture of the applications of language development theory in education. It also has an instructive quality for the practitioner who may want a summary of theories regarding language and literacy development and empirical findings organized and presented by influential figures in this area of child development. Parents will also find this book useful. After each chapter, the editors present a series of recommendations of best practices for home and school environments."

Based on research gathered for the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development, vignettes of some 70 young children from diverse backgrounds reveal the importance of early parent-child and teacher- child interactions and children's kindergarten language and literacy skills. Suggestions are given for enhancing children's language and literacy development at home and at school. Dickinson is a researcher at the Center for Children and Families at the Education Development Center, Inc. Tabors is a researcher and instructor in the Human Development and Psychology Department at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557664792
  • Publisher: Brookes Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 409
  • Sales rank: 1,242,532
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

After 5 years of experience teaching in elementary schools in the Philadelphia area, David K. Dickinson, Ed.D., attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then served as Director of Teacher Education at the Child Study Department at Tufts University and joined the Education Department at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he received tenure. He moved to the Education Development Center (EDC) in 1994 to join the team that developed the Early Childhood Generalist certificate for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In 1995 he established the New England Research Center on Head Start Quality, which examined the impact of Head Start on children's language and literacy development and on families, with special attention to the development of children whose first language is Spanish. He and Catherine Snow received the initial funding that launched the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development in 1987, and he directed the school portion of the study during the preschool years. Drawing on early results from this study, he and colleagues at EDC developed the Literacy Environment Enrichment Project, an approach to helping preschool teachers and their supervisors adopt more effective practices to support children's language and literacy. He and others at EDC are developing and researching a version of this program that will be delivered using the Internet in combination with interactive television. His work has been published in numerous articles, and he has edited two other books, Bridges to Literacy: Children, Families and Schools (Blackwell, 1994) and Handbook of Early Literacy Research (co-edited with Susan Neuman, Guilford Press, 2001). He and Miriam W. Smith are co-authors (with Angela Sangeorge & Louisa Anastasopoulos) of the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation Toolkit, Research Edition (Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 2002), a set of tools for evaluating the quality of literacy support in early childhood classrooms.

Prior to beginning her doctoral studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1981, Patton O. Tabors was an elementary school teacher and a childbirth educator. During her doctoral studies she focused on first and second language acquisition in young children. Her qualifying paper and dissertation research, based on 2 years of ethnographic investigation in a nursery school classroom, described the developmental pathway of a group of young children learning English as a second language. She was able to use this information as the basis for the material in One Child, Two Languages: A Guide for Preschool Educators of Children Learning English as a Second Language (Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 1997). Since 1987, Dr. Tabors has been the research coordinator of the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development in collaboration with Catherine Snow and David Dickinson. During this time she has also directed research related to low-education and low-income mothers reading to their preschool-age children as part of the Manpower Development Research Corporation evaluations of two welfare-to-work projects, New Chance and JOBS, and for the Harvard Language Diversity Project, a subproject of the New England Research Center on Head Start Quality, directed by David Dickinson. Dr. Tabors's latest research, a longitudinal project that is following the language and literacy development of Spanish-speaking children from preschool to second grade, combines her interests in early language and literacy development and second language acquisition in young children.

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Read an Excerpt

Language Development in the Preschool Years

Parents and early childhood educators want children to become good readers and writers. They are fully aware of how crucial reading and writing skills are to school success. But parents and early childhood educators may not know how important language development is in preparing preschool-age children for later literacy development. The purpose of this book is to provide information to parents and early childhood educators about the connections between young children's early language development and later literacy development so that they can support and facilitate young children's language skills both at home and in early care and education.

The material in this book is based on the findings of a research project, the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development, carried out since 1987 by a collaborative research team composed of members from the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Tufts University; Clark University; and the Education Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts. Researchers in this study have collected data in the homes and preschool, elementary school, and high school classrooms of a group of children from low-income families, starting when the children were 3 years old. This book reports on the information from the preschool and kindergarten period-a period that we have found makes crucial contributions in preparing children for their later literacy achievement.

In this book we not only present the findings from this research study but also make the findings come alive by presenting examples of the types of language that were audiotaped during visits to the homes and classrooms of these children, as well as quotes from teacher and mother interviews. Furthermore, to personalize the findings of the study, we have chosen four children and their families as examples of the overall group of children being studied. These children and their families are introduced later in this chapter, and further information about their lives-at home and in preschool-appears throughout the chapters that follow.


As mentioned, the focus of the Home-School Study is on young children's literacy development-how children become readers and writers. When we started this study, there was considerable interest in class differences with regard to children's literacy achievement. These socioeconomic differences led many researchers to focus on children's access to information about literacy as a determinant of their success in school. It was argued that before ever getting to school, some children have lots of opportunities at home to learn letters and sounds and to learn about handling books, making lists, writing notes, and other uses of literacy. These opportunities, which are generally available to children in more middle-class homes, might explain their literacy success.

Yet other researchers noted the robust relationship between reading achievement and vocabulary and suggested that individual and social class differences in children's vocabulary development would explain their reading outcomes. Although little work had been done on precisely how children developed larger vocabularies, it was clear that, in general, children from families with higher incomes and children of more highly educated mothers did have larger vocabularies at school entry than children from low-income families. This, too, might explain differences in reading outcomes.

Though we were not rejecting either of the previous explanations, we started this study with an interest in another aspect of language skill as well. We were particularly interested in children's experience with language that replicates some of the demands of literacy-that is, talk that requires participants to develop understandings beyond the here and now and that requires the

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Table of Contents

Sue Bredekamp
  1. Language Development in the Preschool Years
Catherine E. Snow, Patton O. Tabors, and David K. Dickinson
Importance of Language Development in the Preschool Years
Anatomy of a Research Study
The Portrait Children
Purpose of this Book

I: Supporting Language and Literacy Development in the Home
Patton O. Tabors

  1. Parents and Children Reading Books Together
Jeanne M. DeTemple
Importance of Book Reading in Children's Development of Language and Literacy Skills
Talk During Book Reading in the Home-School Study
Home Support for Literacy
Suggestions for Parents
  1. Playing at Home: The Talk of Pretend Play
Jane R. Katz
Defining Social Pretend Play
Theoretical Views on the Development of Social Pretend Play
Analyzing the Play Sessions
Suggestions for Parents
  1. Eating and Reading: Links Between Family Conversations with Preschoolers and Later Language and Literacy
Diane E. Beals
Mealtime Data Collection
Literacy Outcomes
Suggestions for Parents
  1. You Know What Oxygen Is?: Learning New Words at Home
Patton O. Tabors, Diane E. Beals, and Zehava O. Weizman
Learning New Words
Support for Rare-Word Use in the Different Conversational Contexts
Relationships Between Rare Words and Kindergarten Vocabulary
Suggestions for Parents
  1. Home Language and Literacy Environment: Final Results
Patton O. Tabors, Kevin A. Roach, and Catherine E. Snow
Magnet Task and Science Process Talk
Home Language and Literacy Environment: Putting the Pieces Together
Home Language and Literacy Environment and Kindergarten Skills
Section II: Supporting Language and Literacy Development in the Preschool Classroom
David K. Dickinson and Miriam W. Smith
Prior Studies of Preschool Supports for Language and Literacy
Classroom Data Collection
Overview of the Chapters in this Section
  1. Children's Experiences in Preschool
Miriam W. Smith
Methodological Considerations
Focus Teachers
Teachers' Pedagogical Beliefs
Teachers' Classroom Practices
  1. Book Reading in Preschool Classrooms: Is Recommended Practice Common?
David K. Dickinson
How Effective Book-Reading Practices Support Literacy Development
Mariana's Classroom: A Didactic Instruction Approach
Todd's Classroom: A Constructivist Approach
Place of Book Reading in the Classroom Day Across All Classrooms
How Two Teachers Read Books
Overall Style of Reading Books
Book-Reading Styles and Group Management
Content of Book Discussions Across Classrooms
Suggestions for Teachers
  1. Language Opportunities During Mealtimes in Preschool Classrooms
Linda R. Cote
Role of Mealtimes in the Head Start Day
Comparisons of the Quality of Mealtime Conversations
Long-Term Implications of Language Use During Mealtimes
Suggestions for Teachers
  1. Large-Group and Free-Play Times: Conversational Settings Supporting Language and Literacy Development
David K. Dickinson
Background Research
Profile Classrooms: Astra's and Casey's Classroom Days
Examining Large-Group Activities in Our Classrooms
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