Supporting Early (and Later) Literacy Development at Home and at School

The Long View

Authored by: Jeanne R. Paratore , Christina M. Cassano , Judith A. Schickedanz

Handbook of Reading Research

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780805853421
eBook ISBN: 9780203840412
Adobe ISBN: 9781136891427


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As we began our work on this chapter, we reviewed the relevant chapters in each of the earlier handbooks. We noted that although previous chapters differed in important ways, they were also unified in the significant goal of seeking to understand “children’s literacy knowledge and processes as they move from unconventional to conventional literacy” (Yaden, Rowe, & MacGillivray, 2000). We, too, adopted this goal, but also considered additional purposes. Our discussions and conversations repeatedly led us to a fundamental question about the consequences of actions taken in the early childhood years to move children from unconventional to conventional literacy. Specifically, we questioned how current conceptions of early foundations reach beyond these years. What we call “the long view” is, at least in part, a response to current concerns that although many children learn to read well enough to make sense of the multiple texts for which they are held accountable, too many do not. Moreover, even among those who do, few meet the benchmarks on national and state assessments for the “advanced” category that is reserved for students who can read and understand, and also evaluate, critique, compare, and judge the worthiness of the arguments (Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007). The idea that this “topping off” at relatively low levels of proficiency can be accounted for by the types of experiences children have in the earliest years and the balance in experiences across different literacy domains has been suggested by others (Curtis, 1990; Juel, 2006; Mills & Jackson, 1990; Snow, 1991). Yet, these ideas seem to have had little effect on present policy and practice. In her essay on the “path to competence,” Alexander (2005/06) noted that to reach the goal of a fully literate society,

We must take another look at what it means to read competently. We must consider what it takes to read well not just in the early years, as children struggle to unravel the mysteries and beauty of written and spoken language, but across the lifespan, as the purposes for reading and the character of written language change. In other words, we can do more to realize the goal of a literate society if we better understand the full nature of reading development.

(p. 414)

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