A longitudinal study of literacy experiences, the role of parents, and children's literacy development
This study investigated the literacy experiences and attainment of 42 children aged 3 to 7, who had attended preschool education in a city in the North of England. Data were collected through parent interviews before nursery entry; literacy assessment at school entry, and at age seven; and by parent, teacher and child interviews. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were employed. Four measures of literacy development at age seven were used: children's reading book level, writing ability and standardised scores for reading and English at seven. Factors before school entry shown to be significant were: vocabulary scores, number of letters known, how well children wrote their name and a phrase, whether they listened to stories at nursery, and how often they were read to at home. This was influenced by earlier home factors; by having access to books, being read to from storybooks, and having books read in their entirety, the age parents started reading to them, how many nursery rhymes they knew, and parents pointing out environmental print. By seven, other significant factors were parents' knowledge about school literacy, and how often children read to parents at home. Several findings confirmed those of previous studies. Others were new: having a favourite book before nursery, choosing to read books in nursery, access to home computers at seven, children storing literacy resources indiscriminately, parents reading more than newspapers and magazines, and parents providing examples of day-to-day literacy. Process variables appeared to exert greater effects on children's performance than status variables, such as social class, mother's employment and qualifications, and relatives with literacy difficulties. Home literacy experiences for the majority of children were barely acknowledged in school, and home learning for children with problems was often unsupported by school. For most children, homes provided rich, complex and powerful environments for literacy learning.