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Connecting School and Home Literacy Instruction
Sebastian Wren, Ph.D.

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I recently heard reading consultant Quality Quinn (yes, that really is her name -- check out her website at QualityQuinn.com) describe the first day of kindergarten as the first day of reading remediation for a lot of kids.  That concept really hit me -- it takes a life-long perspective on learning to read, and accepts that reading development begins at birth.  

Of course she's right.  The statistics for reading failure clearly indicate that the overwhelming majority of kids who have difficulty learning to read are children who come from poverty.  The education level and income level of the household from which the child comes is one of the best predictors of academic success in school.

The research on home support has shown that kids who are successful come from very supportive and enriching households.  Children from high-income households are exposed to approximately 30 million more words than children from low-income households in the first 3 years of their lives.  As a result, high-income kids enter school with a much richer vocabulary, being familiar with about twice as many words as their less fortunate peers.  They usually have already mastered many of the reading and writing basics, having good concepts about print, letter knowledge, and often even some letter-sound knowledge.  And their background knowledge is more in line with the concepts that will be taught in school.

Parents play an important role in helping children learn to read, and schools and teachers need to collaborate with parents, working together to provide consistent support at home and at school.
 

-- To learn more about a particular book, or to purchase a copy of that book, just click on the image of the book cover --

Unfulfilled Expectations
by Catherine E. Snow, Wendy S. Barnes, Jean Chandler, Irene F. Goodman, and Lowry Hemphill
Published in 2000 by IUniverse

This is an excellent and very thorough examination of the various family and school influences that affect student achievement.  A group of low-income children from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds is examined over a two-year period.  Their family dynamics, school dynamics, and interrelationships between the two worlds are described in, at times, embarrassing detail.  Variables such as instructional strategies, teachers quality, reading and writing habits, homework, mobility, parent-teacher interactions, discipline, truancy, motivation, parent support and guidance and many more are examined and discussed.  

A follow-up study four years later describes the academic and personal trajectory of children in the original study.  Their challenges, their talents, their plans and ambitions are discussed -- some are already having difficulty with the law, others are fairing better.  The quality of the teacher in the younger grades plays an enormously important role in the prospects of the children in this study, but their home and social influences play a role as well.  Some of the children who were fortunate to have high-quality instruction from talented teachers none-the-less were having difficulties in school and in life by the time of the follow-up study.

The interaction between supportive parents and high-quality teachers was the most robust foundation for these children, but in the absence of supportive parents, the teacher still had the potential to significantly improve each child's prospects for success.  In the absence of high-quality teachers, the prospects were quite grim indeed.  


Starting Out Right
by M. Susan Burns, Catherine E. Snow, Peg Griffin, Betty Alberts
Published in 1999 by National Academies Press

When "Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children" was published, a companion book was also developed to give parents useful information about what they can do to help their children develop into successful readers.  The focus of Starting Out Right is on the elements of early reading, activities that parents can do at home to foster and promote the development of literacy skills, and some warning signs that parents should look for as their children start to develop basic reading skills.  The book goes on, however, to give parents information about questions they should ask teachers, school boards, and other policymakers about reading instruction.  

Overall, this is an easy-to-read book for reasonably well-educated parents.  It would make a good gift for the parents of a newborn, and it offers some information and advice that may help parents to better help their children to develop literacy skills.  It is also a good resource book for people who interact with parents of very young children.  Day-care providers, social workers, and pediatricians should read this book so they can offer useful advice to parents of young children who may not be willing or able to read this book themselves.




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Last Updated 1-1-05