The importance of reading in nurturing emergent literacy skills in pre-school learners, with special emphasis on children from disadvantaged backgrounds
Drennan, Lisa Michelle
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This dissertation explores the benefits of nurturing early literacy which are increasingly being recognized. Many language practitioners (Snow, Barnes, Chandler, Goodman and Hemphill, 1991; Gestwicki, 1997; Krashen, 2004; White, 2005; Morrow, 2007) emphasise that withholding instruction in reading and literate behaviour until schoolgoing age results in children being unprepared for the rigours of school. Intervention should therefore commence as early as possible (Auerbach and Roche, 1971; Brierley, 1987; Essa, 2007; de Witt, 2009) to ensure school readiness and to pave the way for a successful transition into Grade R. At present, it is compulsory for South African learners to begin school in Grade R. This is a government endeavour to ensure that all learners have at least one compulsory year of kindergarten tuition. However, the years preceding Grade R are the most important in terms of acquiring emergent literacy skills (Hechinger, 1966; National Research Council, 1998; Barbarin and Richter 2001; Arnold and Doctoroff, 2003), and urgent attention should therefore also be paid to nurturing literacy during these crucial years. Clearly, children from less advantaged backgrounds who receive little or no stimulation involving printed matter start Grade R at a severe disadvantage as opposed to children who regularly attend pre-school and have literate parents who spend ample time reading to their children. This study highlights ways in which parents and caregivers can significantly alleviate this disadvantage simply by reading to children and by exposing them to a literate environment. Reading to children provides an immensely powerful tool for teaching crucial skills such as page-turning, reading from left to right with return sweeps, following words and understanding basic narrative structures (Bloch, 1996; Ntuli and Pretorius, 2005; Joubert et al, 2008).