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Challenges in Developing Children’s Literacy Skills at Home

Posted on 4th Apr 2017 @ 9:37 PM

The ability of families to develop children literacy skills in the home environment may be affect by the beliefs, attitudes and resources available. Thus the physical, social, and symbolic aspects of the home can hinder or aid the reciprocal interactions between the child and others in his or her environment (Dolezal-Sams, Nordquist, Twardosz (2009). While Clark (2007) noted literacy is an area in which parents have simple facilities (for example, a book or other print materials) to foster their children’s literacy development, not all parents have the same facilities. Some families may have financial resources but lack time, skills or the social support necessary to aid in the development of their children’s literacy skills (Weigel, Martin & Bennett, 2010).

Roskos and Twardosz (2004) outlined eight sub categories of resources in the family environment which can impact book reading activities positively or negatively. These include: physical resources (for example, the amount of space, time, type and amount of materials). The social resources involve the people, the nature of the relationships among them and the knowledge they possess. The symbolic resources include the presence of specific routines and the type of influences the community and culture has on the family.  In a study of 85 children and their parents, Weigel, Martin and Bennett (2007) tried to discern the impact of family resources, routine and stress on a group of preschool children’s early literacy skills development.  The authors assessed the children’s literacy skills and interviewed their parents. Data from this study showed family routine as an important variable directly and indirectly related to children’s literacy outcome. The more parents reported having household routines for example, allotting specific time for reading, doing homework, and reading aloud to their children at home, the more likely they were to participate in literacy related activities with their children. Family routine may provide these families with the structure, consistency and stability they need to engage regularly in literacy-related activities. Further, the results of the study suggested a link between families’ efforts to engage their children in literacy-related activities and the children’s print knowledge and interest in reading.

Parental assets (family resources, routines and stress levels) and education also have an effect on extent to which parent become involved in their children’s literacy development in the home (Weigel, Martin, & Bennett 2010).  Family resources may entail the financial, social and emotional capital available families as they try to meet their needs within the family. Researcher has consistently showed socio-economic factors impact children’s literacy functioning. In a large scale study of a sample of Australian four and five year old children, Brown, Bitman, and Nicholson (2007) investigated the relationship between parental employment and the amount of time the children spent in literacy related activities. The authors found in middle and low income household where mothers worked and fathers worked long hours, the children spent significantly less time in literacy-related activities than their peer from high income families. In another study, Griershaber, Sheild, Luke, and Macdonald (2011) dispute the notion, income is directly related to home literacy resources and how these resources are used. The authors reported from a parent study (a pilot of a larger Australian pilot study) that investigated parents’ family literacy practices. Specifically, demographic, home print resources, home print practices and home media practices were focused on.

Further, some parent activities for example, parent tutoring of specific literacy skills may require more resources as oppose to activities in which parents simply listened to their children read (Senechal & Young, 2008). Thus, the resources families have available in the home (for example, work space and time) can play an important role in the extent to which they are able to participate in children’s literacy development.

Rountine In Dolezal-Sams, Nordquist, Twardosz (2009) exploratory study measuring the physical, social, and symbolic resources of the family environment of a group of  families with children with disabilities, the authors found evidence families who read to their children daily were markedly different from those who did not read as frequently in terms of how predictable their daily routines were, the presence of a reading routine, the amount of help they receive from others, the availability and access to literacy materials, as well as access to community resources for example, the library . For example, the percentage of physical resources for parents who did not read frequently was 50 percent whereas the percentage of physical resources for family who read daily were 80 percent.

Barbara L. Fearon