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Fwd: "Handbook of Children's Literacy"

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  • Don Osborn
    This collection of articles on child literacy may be of interest. Note in particular Section E: LOOKING ACROSS LANGUAGES. (Crossposted, belatedly, from
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 9, 2004
      This collection of articles on child literacy may be of interest.
      Note in particular Section E: LOOKING ACROSS LANGUAGES. (Crossposted,
      belatedly, from Linguist list.) DZO

      Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2004 22:03:58 -0400 (EDT)
      From: Liang Chen <chen@...>
      Subject: Handbook of Children's Literacy

      Nunes, Terezinha and Peter Bryant, eds. (2004) Handbook of
      Children's Literacy, Kluwer Academic Publishers.

      Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-139.html

      Liang Chen, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


      The purpose of the Handbook of Children's Literacy is to 'make it
      clear that children's literacy is a phenomenon that must be
      investigated from a variety of perspectives, with diverse methods and
      in order to answer different questions'. This commitment is partly
      reflected in the 35 papers, which are arranged into five sections. The
      book will be of interest to researchers, educators, and clinicians who
      are concerned with 'the multifaceted nature of children's literacy'


      Section A consists of 6 papers, and a brief introduction from the
      editors Terezinha Nunes and Peter Bryant.

      LILIANA TOLCHINSKY discusses 'Childhood Conceptions of Literacy'
      through an examination of children's reactions to questions about what
      individual letters signify, and claims that children see letters as
      representing syllables rather than phonemes.

      REBECCA TREIMAN examines the relationship between 'Phonology and
      Reading', and claims that phonemic reasons underlie children's
      omissions of vowels in their early writing (e.g., wrx for works).

      LILIAN SPRENGER-CHAROLLES, in the paper titled 'Linguistic Processes
      in Reading and Spelling: The Case of Alphabetic Writing Systems:
      English, French, German and Spanish', points out that it takes
      children learning to read these language different amount of time to
      isolate phonemes and work out their relationship to the alphabetic
      letters, probably due to different levels of regularity of
      letter-sound correspondence.

      GORDON D. A. BROWN & NICK CHATER explore the relevance of
      'Connectionist Models in Children's Reading'. They suggest that
      beginning readers and older more expert children take different
      strategies that are 'optimal for the particular situation that they
      are in' (p.9).

      PETER BRYANT & TEREZINHA NUNES review literature on the relationship
      between 'Morphology and Spelling'. They argue that English must be
      treated as a 'morph-phonic script' rather than a 'capricious
      orthography', because the regularities in sound-letter correspondences
      in English at the level of morphology. They point out that while
      morphology plays an important role in learning to read, it is not
      clear why this should be so.

      URSULA PRETZLIK & LILY CHAN offers a review of researches into
      'Children's Self-Perception as Readers'. Individual children put
      different efforts into learning to read, and much of this variation is
      determined by social and emotional factors. In particular, their own
      assessment of their reading abilities determine how much time they
      will spend on reading, which in turn determines how well they will
      learn to read.


      In addition to the introduction by Alison F. Garton and Chris Pratt,
      this section consists of five papers that deal with production and
      comprehension of extended passages.

      J. V. OAKHILL & K. CAIN provide an overview of research into 'The
      Development of Comprehension Skills'. They discuss various components
      of reading comprehension and children's reading development, including
      word identification, vocabulary and syntax, inference-making,
      knowledge of text structure, comprehension monitoring. They also
      highlight the importance of reading experience and motivation for
      growth of reading and gains in comprehension.

      MICHEL FAYOL is concerned with 'Text and Cognition'. Based on a review
      of the research into performance, knowledge and processes involved in
      the use of narratives by adults and their acquisition by children,
      they distinguish three dimensions of narrative processing: conceptual,
      rhetorical, and linguistic. While the conceptual dimension concerns
      'the mental representation of situations and events as well as their
      temporal or causal relations' (p. 184), the rhetorical dimension
      relates to the textual organization of narrative (e.g., narrative
      schema). Linguistic dimension, on the other hand, concerns the marking
      of event sequences through lexical and syntactic devices (e.g., the
      use of tense and aspect markers to distinguish between foreground
      actions and the background information.). According to Fayol, each of
      the three dimensions is subject to specific difficulties during the
      development of narrative comprehension and production, and therefore
      '[E]ach can also be the object of preventive or corrective action'
      (p. 192).

      WILLIAM E. TUNMER & JAMES W. CHAPMAN reviews evidence in support of
      three views on 'The Use of Context in Learning to Read', and conclude
      that both context and word identification skills are necessary for
      children to making progress in learning to read. In particular, they
      suggest that context can help children in their development of word
      decoding skills. They conclude their review with the hypothesis that
      'skilled readers are better than less- skilled readers in using
      context to identify unfamiliar words in text because of their superior
      phonological recoding and/or grammatical sensitivity skills, but they
      rely less on context than less-skilled readers to read the words of
      text because of their superior context free word recognition skills'
      (p. 211).

      ALISON F. GARTON & CHRIS PRATT focus on usefulness of 'Reading
      Stories' in children's reading development. Reading stories to
      children can provide both social and educational benefits to, and in
      fact serves as a basis for success in, their success in later reading
      development. Through reading stories and being read stories, children
      come to know more about the language of books, to have a concept of a
      story, to know that printed words have meaning, and above all, to know
      that reading stories can be fun.

      GAVRIEL SALOMON, ELY KOZMINSKY, & MERAV ASAF are concerned with the
      relationship between 'Computers and Writing'. They review research
      into the impact of technology (e.g., word processors) on writing
      processes and writing development, and indirectly on text
      understanding. They find that technology per se does not influence
      children's writing, but the learning environment it created may
      support and stimulate writing activities that enable children to
      monitor their own writing, to be reflective and aware of the activity.


      The 11 papers in this section cover various approaches (e.g.,
      psychological, linguistic, neurological, genetic, pedagogical, and
      sociological) to various aspects of literacy problems (e.g.,
      definitions, occurrence, variability, causes, prediction and
      intervention). CARSTEN ELBRO's paper 'Reading and Spelling
      Difficulties' serves as an introduction to the other 10 papers.

      SÉVERINE CASALIS considers the controversy over 'The Concept of
      Dyslexia'. Reading difficulties don't constitute a unitary phenomenon,
      but rather run along a continuum. Children with word decoding deficits
      should be treated differently from children with comprehension

      NICKY BRUNSWICK covers the neurological bases of dyslexia in
      'Developmental Dyslexia: Evidence from Brain Research'. The paper
      reviews neuroimaging studies of developmental dyslexia using
      techniques such as EEG (electroencephalography), ERPs (Event-Related
      Potentials), MEG (magnetoencephalography), PET(positron Emission
      Tomography), and fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Such
      studies reveal abnormalities (structural and functional) within the
      temporal and temporal- parietal regions (particularly within the left
      hemisphere) in developmental dyslexics. The explanations for the
      neurophysiological and neuroanatomical differences between
      developmental dyslexics and normal readers are also evaluated.

      JIM STEVENSON addresses the nature versus nurture question in dyslexia
      in his chapter 'Epidemiology: Genetic and Social Influences on Reading
      Ability'. Specifically, he is interested in the fact that dyslexia
      runs in families, and that boys seem to be more likely than girl to
      experience reading and writing difficulties. He argues that reading
      disability represents 'one of the major areas where complex cognitive
      skills can be analyzed in terms of the genes contributing to
      functional variation' (p. 293). While '[T]here is no such thing as
      ''the RD (reading disability) gene'' but identifying those genes that
      do play a role, insight into genetic variation and brain function will
      start to emerge' (p. 307).

      KATE CAIN & JANE OAKHILL present an overview of research into the
      multifaceted nature of 'Reading Comprehension Difficulties' and their
      cognitive correlates. They highlight poor readers' difficulties at the
      word-, sentence-, and discourse-level, particularly their failure to
      relate and integrate current text with previous read text and with
      background knowledge. The studies they have reviewed seem to suggest
      the crucial contribution of early exposure to print to later reading

      CARSTEN ELBRO & HOLLIS S. SCARBOROUGH presents one review of studies
      on 'Early Identification' and one on 'Early Intervention'. As is the
      case for other speech and language disorder, early identification and
      early intervention are crucial. As with most other papers, their
      primary interest is identifying readers with word decoding
      deficits. Intervention studies they reviewed therefore also center
      around phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and other rudimentary
      reading skills.

      MARGARET SNOWLING and YVONNE GRIFFITHS deal with 'Individual
      Differences in Dyslexia' from several perspectives: single case
      research, models of normal reading development, comparisons with
      acquired dyslexias, and connectionist models of reading and spelling

      JULIE E. DOCKRELL & GEOFF LINDSAY focus on 'Specific Speech and
      Language Difficulties and Literacy', and present an overview on the
      varying consequences of various specific language impairments on
      reading. Rather than focus on phonological factors, they suggest that
      we need consider semantic, syntactic, and metalinguistic abilities and
      attention in literacy development.

      SUSANNA MILLAR reviews studies of 'Reading by Touch in Blind Children
      and Adults'. While the focus is on Braille (characters based on a six
      point matrix), two other systems ''Moon'' (simplified capital letters)
      and ''optacon'' (vibrotactile stimulation of the fingertip) are also
      discussed. Such studies help use to understand 'how touch functions,
      and how the perceptual and orthographic basis of a tactual reading
      system relates to the language which it is intended to convey'
      (p. 437), and indeed how it is acquired.

      JÉSUS ALEGRIA reviews several issues involved in 'Deafness and
      Reading' such as determinants of reading ability in deaf persons
      (i.e., individual differences in language knowledge and reading
      comprehension), phonology and reading in deaf persons, and reading
      mechanisms in the deft. They argues that while deaf children can
      compensate their inability at the linguistic level and their weakness
      in general world knowledge by using sign language, they cannot reach
      high literacy levels due to their lack of oral language phonology
      basis. As he put it, 'oral language phonology seems to be necessary
      conditions for reaching higher literacy levels' both for hearing
      persons and deaf persons (p. 460).


      There are six chapters in this section. ANNE-MARIE CHARTIER offers an
      overview of this section through her 'Introduction: Teaching Literacy:
      What Practices, When and Why'.

      DANIEL A. WAGNER focuses on 'Literacy in Time and Space: Issues,
      Concepts and Definitions'. A review of the literature on both
      children's literacy and adult literacy suggests that we should
      conceptualize literacy as having both a life span dimension (i.e.,
      across an individual's life time from childhood to adult) and a life
      space dimension (i.e., literacy practices across diverse parts of the
      globe). A more literate world depends on a synergy of a life-span and
      life-space approach to literacy.

      ANNE-MARIE CHARTIER presents a selective review of methods of teaching
      reading from the 16 to the 19 century in her chapter 'Teaching
      Reading: A Historical Approach'. She observes that 'teaching methods
      depend on what reading actually involved at the time considered'
      (p. 512).

      DAVID R. OLSON addresses 'The Cognitive Consequences of Literacy',
      i.e., the impact of literacy on cognition. He argues that written
      language is essentially different from oral language, and 'writing
      systems are culturally evolved notational systems which provide
      categories in terms of which we come to think about our
      speech'. Consequently, we need to distinguish the communication
      function of literacy from its representational or cognitive function.

      JANE HURRY reviews the debate over the phonics versus whole language
      approach to literacy through 'Comparative Studies of Instructional
      Methods'. It is shown that both the content and method of literacy
      instruction are important if learners are to benefit from learning to

      MADELON SAADA-ROBERT discusses issues surrounding 'Early Emergent
      Literacy', including home environment, socio-economic and cultural
      predictors, quality of shared reading, the influence of genres of
      books, and preschool literacy development. A research paradigm
      'combining experimental, ethnological, and psychogenetic methods
      within an ecological context' (p. 594) is recommended for the situated
      study of emergent literacy.

      JOSÉ MORAIS & RÉGINE KOLINSKY deals with 'The Linguistic
      Consequences of Literacy', and examines the impact of literacy on
      linguistic and metalinguistic abilities. While a critical review of
      the literature suggests differential influences of literacy on
      lexical, morphological, phonological, syntax and semantic components
      of language, the authors emphasize the importance of more rigorous
      research methodologies.


      There are seven papers in this section in addition to a brief
      introduction by Terezinha Nunes. Most issues covered in Section A show
      themselves in this section, but this time from a cross- linguistic

      SYLVIA DEFIOR, in his paper 'Phonological Awareness and Learning to
      Read: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective', reviews studies on the
      relationship between phonological awareness and learning to read, and
      finds that different types of orthography, different degrees of
      orthographic transparency with respect to phonology, and
      characteristics of oral language all influence the development of
      conscious phonological representations.

      TEREZINHA NUNES & GIYOO HATANO, in their chapter 'Morphology, Reading
      and Spelling: Looking Across Languages', considers the role of
      morphology and morphological aware in reading and spelling in
      different languages. Research is reviewed that shows transfer of
      morphological awareness in literacy across languages.

      LINDA SIEGEL reviews research on the relationship between
      'Bilingualism and Reading', which reveals that learning two languages
      does not interfere with learning to read and positive transfer of
      reading and spelling skills can occur between two languages.

      MIRIAM BINDMAN reveals transfer of morphosyntactic awareness in
      children with experience to two unrelated languages and scripts by
      investigating 'Grammatical Awareness Across Languages and the Role of
      Social Context: Evidence from English and Hebrew'. It is suggested
      that the specific social and cultural practices be considered along
      with the relationships across different languages and orthographies.

      KRISHNA KUMAR highlights the relationship between 'Literacy,
      Socialization and the Social Order' through an analysis of school
      instruction in India. Bilingual education is argued to impact not only
      children's reading potential, but above all their socialization
      through literacy.

      ALEJANDRA PELLICER reports a study investigating 'Segmentation in the
      Writing of Mayan Language Statements by Indigenous Children with
      Primary Schooling'. Mayan Children instructed in Spanish as a second
      language were asked to write a list of sentences spoken in Maya which
      is their mother tongue. Segmentation principles learned from Spanish
      instruction were found to transfer in writing Maya, with a
      consideration of its particularities.

      DIANA BURMAN & URSULA PRETZLIK investigates 'Paths to Literacy for
      Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) Users'. However, their study is
      actually more limited to test the hypothesis that teaching of
      grammatical and morphological rules enhances Deaf children's spelling
      development and text writing. The outcome is evaluated in terms of the
      accuracy of spelling, and therefore it is not clear how significant
      such intervention may be in terms of general reading comprehension.


      Most contributions to this handbook view literacy as a linguistic and
      representational ability. Even though literacy is occasionally
      conceptualized as a generative ability, the ability is limited to
      identification and production of words. The narrow conceptualization
      of literacy is not what we would expect if we consider the volume as
      'a rare opportunity to consider literacy in breadth and depth by
      consulting a single collection' (backcover).

      In this volume, reading comprehension is usually separated from word
      recognition (decoding), and in fact the focus of the handbook is
      literacy as word decoding. It's therefore no wonder that dyslexia is
      defined as 'a specific problem with the acquisition of word decoding
      abilities' (Carsten Elbro, p. 253). Carsten Elbro also refers to
      dyslexia as 'a problem with the acquisition of the basic alphabetic
      principle of the writing system' (Carsten Elbro, p. 250). Though he
      doesn't make it clear what he means by 'the alphabetic principle', one
      can't help wondering what that principle is in the written system of
      languages like Chinese. Or if such a principle doesn't operate in
      Chinese, are Chinese children are more fortunate so as to avoid the
      infliction of dyslexia?

      After phonological awareness, morphological and syntactic awareness
      are also posited as a theoretical construct in reading research. One
      wonders whether semantic awareness or pragmatic awareness will be the
      next object of inquiry. Or how many awarenessES do we need in order to
      learn to read? It is worth pointing out in this regard that while 'it
      is clear that skilled readers can be identified as having certain
      characteristics and certain skills, but whether these are a cause or a
      consequence of reading still has to be determined' (Garton & Pratt,
      p. 152.). J. V. Oakhill and K. Cain make it more explicit when they
      say '[W]hereas clear correlational links have between shown between
      comprehension skills and other variables, most of the available data
      do not permit conclusions about the likely direction of the link
      between a particular skill or ability and reading development, so in
      most cases there no direct evidence that the link is causal' (p. 175).
      Unfortunately, this insight is not always shared by the contributors
      to this volume.

      The Handbook of Children's Literacy contains a wide range of
      perspectives on literacy, and reviews of literature in each
      perspective may become handy for any newcomer into the field.
      However, in order to have a more complete picture of children's
      literacy, it might be best read as a supplement to the Handbook of
      Early Childhood Literacy edited by Nigel Hall, Joanne Larson, and
      Jackie Marsh and published by Saga Publications in the year of 2003
      (http://www.sagepub.com/booktoc.aspx?pid=5318&sc=1). The
      publication of these two handbooks may indicate to certain extent the
      lack of correspondence between researchers in childhood
      literacy. While the Handbook of Children's Literacy represents a
      bottom-up and skills-building approach to literacy, the Handbook of
      Early Childhood Literacy presents a more holistic and therefore
      top-down approach where the focus is on literacy as a socially
      situated phenomenon and on how children learn to construct meaning.

      I will end the review with a call from J. V. Oakhill and K. Cain for
      more 'longitudinal studies of reading development and for studies of
      interactions between children's comprehension skills and strategies'
      (p. 176).


      Liang Chen is a doctoral student of Applied Language and Speech
      Sciences in the Department of Communicative Disorders at University of
      Louisiana at Lafayette. His current research includes theoretical
      semiotics, language disorders, language assessment, and qualitative
      methods. Other interests include syntactic theory and Chinese
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