Exploring early childhood teachers’ beliefs and practices in emergent literacy: Does practice vary by the socioeconomic status of the children?

NZ Int Reseach ECE journal picFull reference
Dampney, A., Newbury, J., & McAuliffe, M. (2018). Exploring early childhood teachers’ beliefs and practices in emergent literacy: Does practice vary by the socioeconomic status of the children? NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 21(2), 1-18. Retrieved from https://www.childforum.com/research/2018-issue2-nz-international-research-ece-journal/1608-emergent-literacy-practices-socio-economic.html 

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Original Research Paper
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Exploring early childhood teachers’ beliefs and practices in emergent literacy: Does practice vary by the socioeconomic status of the children?

Amber Dampney, Jayne Newbury and Megan McAuliffe
University of Canterbury NZ

Abstract

There is limited research on the practices that New Zealand early childhood teachers (ECTs) use to facilitate the development of emergent literacy skills. The present study aimed to investigate the practices of ECTs in encouraging emergent literacy. Specifically the study investigated if these practices varied across different socioeconomic levels (SES) and whether there was a statistically significantly relationship between these practices and ECTs’ beliefs about literacy. Eighty seven ECTs from across New Zealand completed a survey about their literacy beliefs and practices. The results indicate that ECTs engage in a range of literacy practices moderately frequently, and that there was no statistically significant relationship between practices used to promote literacy skills and the SES of the early childhood centre in which they were employed. However, there was a statistically significant relationship between the ECTs’ literacy practices and beliefs regarding their role or the role of the centre in promoting literacy. In contrast, the relationship between ECTs’ emergent literacy practices and beliefs about current research was not significant. The present study provides insight into the practices used by ECTs to promote emergent literacy development, and the influence their beliefs have on these practices.  Implications for raising achievement in literacy are discussed.

Key words: Emergent literacy, early childhood teachers, beliefs, practices.

 

Introduction

Emergent literacy

The years before a child enters school represent a critical time for the development of emergent literacy skills.  The term ‘emergent literacy’ suggests that the acquisition of literacy skills occur, not in a sudden manner, once a child begins school, but slowly from birth to about age six (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998; Justice & Kaderavek, 2002). There is a broad range of emergent literacy skills that develop during this time, including oral language, print awareness, phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, and the specific vocabulary used to describe literacy-related concepts (Justice & Kaderavek, 2002; Pullen & Justice, 2003).

According to the Ministry of Education (MoE) Annual Early Childhood Education (ECE) Census Summary Report (2014), the amount of time children spend in early childhood education is increasing, from an average of 16.1 hours per week in 2004 to 21.7 hours per week in 2013. This suggests that many of children’s opportunities to develop emergent literacy skills will take place in the early childhood education environment. For this reason, Te Whāriki (MoE, 2017), the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, should play an important role in fostering early literacy skills.

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