The Factors that Determine the Development of Literacy Skills in Preschool Children

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The development of literacy skills is an integral part of the process of growing up. The basis for these skills is laid in the early childhood. Therefore, when entering the primary school, the majority of children already demonstrate significant achievements in reading and writing. In order to ensure successful development of literacy skills great attention should be given to the factors impact literacy acquisition. Child's social and economic background, education of parents, as well as the educatory environment of the preschool institutions determine the level of literacy skills.

  • 1. Empirical: Quantitative. Jumpstart. (2009, September). Americas early childhood literacy gap.

This study focuses on determining the environmental factors that have negative influence on the early development of literacy skills and the detrimental outcomes of this influence. It emphasizes the tendency of children raised in working class families to perform worse in learning and acquisition of literacy skills. The research results demonstrate that children that live in the United States of America and come from low income households only know two out of 26 letters of the alphabet upon entry into kindergarten, only half can write his/her own name, and cognitive scores are 60 percent lower than the children from the upper-income families. These weaknesses will certainly follow each student into their high school and later into their career (Jumpstart, 2009, p. 8). The study demonstrates that lack of attention given to the development of reading and writing skills in the kindergarten results in future underachievement. Children who do not achieve the basic skills of literacy during the preschool period are three to four times more likely to discontinue their education (Jumpstart, 2009, p. 5). This research provides important evidence regarding the literacy gap; however, it fails to provide tangible classification of the factors. It focuses more on generalization, and, thus, leaves out some significant details or aspects of early development.


  • 2. Empirical: Quantitative. Cadima, J., McWilliam, R. A., & Leal, T. (2010). Environmental risk factors and children's literacy skills during the transition to elementary school. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34(1), 24-33.

The article describes the family risk factors as the key influential component of the literacy development in children. The authors emphasize the dependence of child's performance on family environment. The researchers examined such skills as the size of active vocabulary, knowledge of letters, phonological awareness and basic reading skills. The methods of investigation included canonical correlation and multiple regression. The risk factors included living in a single-parent home, low level of parent's education, poor maternal occupation status. Approximately half of the children grew up in families where mothers had less than 6 years of education and were unemployed or had an unskilled job. Having analyzed the children from 60 preschool classes, the researchers found that "children with high  levels  of  cumulative risk had lower results in all the literacy measures" (Cadima, McWilliam, & Leal, 2010, p. 27). The strong side of the article is its focus on deeper investigation of one specific aspect related to social environment. However, it does not include all categories of risk factors that may be related to the inner atmosphere in family rather than to its financial or educational background. Further studies of this subject should take into consideration such aspects as home violence, the number of children in family, etc.

  • 3. Secondary: Application. Galindo, C., & Sheldon, S. B. (2012). School and home connections and children's kindergarten achievement gains: The mediating role of family involvement. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(1), 90-103.

This article also provides data on the relationship between social environment and literacy skills. The participants of the research were young attenders of 864 preschool institutions. Having analyzed the nationally representative samples, it was discovered that continuing dialogue between the kindergarten educators and families results in higher children's achievements. Moreover, it was found that "family involvement at school and parents' educational expectations were associated with improvements in reading and math in kindergarten" (Galindo & Sheldon, 2012, p. 90). In addition, the article discusses the possible application of the obtained conclusions in the process of improving the work of the preschool educatory institutions. The applicability of the research makes it valuable.

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  • 4.Empirical: Qualitative. Lindholm-Leary, K. (2014). Bilingual and biliteracy skills in young Spanish-speaking low-SES children: Impact of instructional language and primary language proficiency. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 17(2), 144-159.

This article analyses another key factor that contributes to the literacy development, namely language environment. The investigational work was focused on the analysis of the bilingual skills of Spanish-speaking children coming from low-socioeconomic households. The selected children from 254 kindergartens participated in an English or a bilingual program during preschool or kindergarten period. It aimed at determining the dependence of children's performance on the correlation between the instructional and primary language. In general, the findings have demonstrated the benefits of bilingual instructions at the preschool age. The article states, "Children in English vs. bilingual instruction had significantly higher scores in Spanish and English language and literacy skills at preschool entry than children entering bilingual programs" (Lindholm-Leary, 2014, p. 144). Children who received instructions in single language demonstrated poor literacy skills related to another language. The strong aspect of the article consists in providing the comparative analysis of various types of instructions and the outcomes. Suchlike method allows obtaining clear evidence and determining the environment that is be the most suitable for early learning and acquisition of literacy skills.

  • 5. Secondary: literature review. Dixon, L. Q., Zhao, J., Shin, J. Y., Wu, S., Su, J. H., Burgess-Brigham, … Snow, C. (2012). What we know about second language acquisition: A synthesis from four perspectives. Review of Educational Research, 82, 5-60.

This article provides synthesis of scholarly sources related to the issue of bilingualism and early education. The authors analyzed the learning environment from four different perspectives including "foreign language education, child language research, sociocultural studies, and psycholinguistics" in order to define optimal conditions required for successful language acquisition (Dixon et al., 2012). It was discovered that appropriate literacy development is possible when a child is fully immersed in both linguistic environments. The review of various sources proved the necessity of additional literacy practices at home as well as appropriate teaching environment at preschool institutions. Only the collaboration between teacher and family will help bilingual children develop their skills and demonstrate high level of performance in reading, writing and speaking. The article represents significant work related to literature analysis. This analysis is beneficial for researchers in this field as it allows to get acquainted with various opinions on the subject of children's literacy.

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  • 6. Empirical: Qualitative. Mashburn, A. J. (2008). Quality of social and physical environments in preschools and children's development of academic, language, and literacy skills. Applied Developmental Science, 12(3), 113-127.

This article is dedicated to the analysis of the environmental factors that influence the development of literacy skills. Participants of the research were 540 four-year-old children from Georgia who had already been participating in Head Start, the Georgia Pre-Kindergarten Program, or attended private preschools. The investigation took into consideration such features as the race, gender, type of preschool institution, financial status and level of literacy skills. The obtained results have demonstrated the positive impact of high-quality social environments on the general development of children of preschool age. There was no correlation observed between the physical environment and literacy performance rate that could determine dependence. Nevertheless, the authors stated, "higher quality physical environments moderated the negative associations between income and academic development and between non-White race/ethnicity and literacy development" (Mashburn, 2008). The criteria taken into consideration in the analysis of children, namely gender, financial background of the family, etc. represent the strong side of the research. Nevertheless, it lacks proper organization of the outcomes and determination of the relationships between all these criteria and the level of performance of the young participants.

  • 7. Empirical: Mixed. Cabell, S. Q., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., DeCoster, J & Forston, L. D. (2015). Teacher-child conversations in preschool classrooms: Contributions to children's vocabulary development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 30, 80-92.

This research analyzes another element from children's environment that plays a significant role in preschool education and cognitive development, namely the role of a teacher. Having applied a novel method, the researchers investigated the process of communication between a teacher and a child. The research aimed at examining two issues: the impact of professional development of a teacher on the choice of communication strategies and the relation between applied strategies and the development of specific skill related to literacy - vocabulary. Having observed suchlike conversations in 44 preschool classrooms, the researchers found that "professional development increased teacher-child engagement in multi-turn conversations, child-initiated conversations, and teachers' strategy use" (Cabell et al., 2015, p. 80). Moreover, it was proved that conversations containing elicitations and extensions have positive impact on children's literacy development in general and on vocabulary in particular. The significant contribution of the article is related to its attempt to analyze the aspect of communication as one of the key components of children's development. However, it is focused exclusively on conversation with the teacher. For further investigation, it is advisable to look into the communication patterns within family.


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  • 8. Secondary: literature review. Blazar, D., & Kraft, M. A. (2015). Exploring mechanisms of effective teacher coaching: A tale of two cohorts from a randomized experiment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 37(4), 542-566.

This article provides synthesis of articles related to the influence of the teacher on all levels of children's education. It proves the importance of high-level professionalism and knowledge of the educators. Referring to the research entitled "The Impact of Professional Development and Coaching on Early Language and Literacy Instructional Practices" the article states that children educated by teachers with higher level of degree, namely those who attended additional courses and coaching, demonstrated higher improvements in literacy skills. The article is valuable since it provides brief and clear summary of the concepts and researches related to literacy development and the role of an educator.

To conclude, acquisition of literacy skills plays a significant role in child's development. Different scholars emphasize different aspects of environment that undoubtedly contribute to the future performance in reading and writing. The articles (Cadima et al., 2010; Galindo & Sheldon, 2012; Jumpstart, 2009) emphasize the crucial importance of family in the literacy development. The authors provide the proof of the idea that children coming from economically secured families with educated parents demonstrate better results in reading and writing that those who grow up in low-income households, with single or both parents with poor education degree. Some researchers (Cabell et al., 2015) prove the significance of good teachers in preschool educational institutions. Great attention is paid to the linguistic environment as many children grow up in bilingual families or due to certain reasons have moved to another country and have to master two languages at the same time (Lindholm-Leary, 2014; Dixon et al., 2012). Suchlike children deserve special attention and can demonstrate equal achievements in both languages if they perceive instructions in two languages. Overall, all these factors are of equal importance and should be further investigated to create the most suitable environment for young learners. Acquisition of literacy skills is not only beneficial to a successful education, but it is also beneficial to a future career of a child. Grown-up must put in effort in order to keep young students up to speed with the rest of the world. The avoidance of neglecting behavior in the first stages of a child's literacy education is possible if parents and educators work together to help achieve this goal.

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