Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy


Edited by: Nigel Hall, Joanne Larson & Jackie Marsh

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Part I: Perspectives on Early Childhood Literacy

    Part II: Early Childhood Literacy in Families, Communities and Cultures

    Part III: Early Moves in Literacy

    Part IV: Literacy in Preschool Settings and Schools

    Part V: Researching Early Childhood Literacy

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    International Editorial Advisory Board

    Editorial Advisory Board

    James AndersonUniversity of British Columbia, Canada
    Kathryn AuUniversity of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii
    Elsa AuerbachUniversity of Massachusetts, USA
    Elaine BarnesChester University College of Higher Education, UK
    Diane BaroneUniversity and Community College System of Nevada, USA
    Eve BearneHomerton College, University of Cambridge, UK
    Bronwyn DaviesJames Cook University, Australia
    Henrietta DombeyUniversity of Brighton, UK
    Arlette Ingram WillisUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
    Mary KalantzisRMIT University, Australia
    Stuart McNaughtonUniversity of Auckland, New Zealand
    Helen NixonUniversity of South Australia, Australia
    Perry NodelmanThe University of Winnipeg, Canada
    Marjorie Faulstich OrelanaNorthwestern University, USA
    Mastin PrinslooUniversity of Cape Town, South Africa
    Victoria Purcell GatesMichigan State University, USA
    Betsy RymesUniversity of Georgia, USA
    Lawrence SipeUniversity of Pennsylvania, USA
    Vivian VasquezAmerican University, USA


    The development of an international handbook is, inevitably, a collaborative effort and the editors would like to acknowledge the contributions made by a number of people. First and most importantly, all of the authors, who are some of the most eminent and respected in the field, produced outstanding chapters and the editors would like to thank them for their expert scholarship, diligence and responsiveness. Secondly, we would like to express our gratitude to the original commissioning editor of the handbook, Marianne Lagrange, and her assistant editor Saleha Nessa, for their support and informed guidance throughout the project, in addition to the excellent team at Sage who steered the handbook safely through to completion. Thirdly, we were entirely reliant on the expert skills of the handbook editorial assistants, Lorraine Roe and Rachel Watson of the University of Sheffield, both of whom we would like to thank warmly for their effective administrative management of the project. Finally, all of the chapters were reviewed by an Editorial Advisory Board of esteemed international scholars who completed this task with the utmost rigour and professionalism. We would like to acknowledge the excellent work and collective wisdom of this board and extend our sincerest thanks for their invaluable contribution to the handbook.


    Patricia Baquedano-López is Assistant Professor in Language and Literacy, Society and Culture at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education. She is Co-director of the Center for Urban Education, which is dedicated to supporting school-based research and reform efforts that focus on the problems and issues confronting urban schools. Her ethnographic studies of Latino students in and out of school in California have focused on the relationship of Spanish language maintenance and use to learning and literacy development. Her publications are in Issues in Applied Linguistics, Language Arts, Theory into Practice, Mind, Culture, and Activity, Narrative Inquiry, The Journal of Linguistic Anthropology and the Annual Review of Anthropology.

    Roger Beard taught in primary schools and in a college of higher education before taking up his current post at the University of Leeds, where he is now Reader in Literacy Education. He has published widely in the field and his most recent work includes the Review of Research and Other Related Evidence for the National Literacy Strategy (DfEE, 1999) and Developing Writing 3–13 (Hodder and Stoughton, 2000).

    David Bloome is Professor of Education in Language, Literacy and Culture in the School of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University. He was President of the National Council of Teachers of English and President of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy. His research has focused on the uses of written language in classroom, community, and family settings, the social construction of intertextuality, and the social and cultural nature of literacy practices. His methodological interests have focused on the discourse analysis of classroom literacy events and the ethnographic study of literacy in classroom and community contexts.

    Trevor H. Cairney is Master of New College and Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is a past President of the Australian Literacy Educators Association and has over 30 years experience as an educator and literacy researcher. His 180 publications on literacy include books and articles on reading comprehension, children's literature, and the social contexts of literacy. His key publications include Pathways to Literacy (Cassell) and Beyond Tokenism: Parents as Partners in Literacy (Heinemann). For the past 13 years he has been exploring the relationship between the language and literacy of home, school and community with a number of colleagues and students.

    Brian Cambourne is currently Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, Australia. He spent 15 years teaching in New South Wales Department. In his sixteenth year of service for this department he entered the groves of academe as a teacher-educator at Wagga Wagga Teachers' College. He completed his PhD at James Cook University in North Queensland, and was subsequently a Fulbright Scholar and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the Universities of Illinois and Arizona. Since 1980 Brian Cambourne has been researching how learning, especially literacy learning, occurs. He is best known for his ‘conditions of learning’ research from which he constructed a grounded theory of classroom learning and teaching, especially as it relates to literacy acquisition.

    Victoria Carrington is a Lecturer in Education with the School of Education at The University of Queensland where she teaches a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. She is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters related to early literacy across home and school contexts and has recently published New Times: New Families (Kluwer, 2002). Her current research interests include the impact of new communications technologies and consumer culture on early literacy development and the emergence of new literacies.

    Frances Christie is Emeritus Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Melbourne and Honorary Professor of Education at the University of Sydney. She was formerly (1990–3) Foundation Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Studies of Language in Education at the Northern Territory University, Darwin. She holds master's degrees in education and applied linguistics, as well as a PhD in linguistics from the University of Sydney. Her major research and teaching interests are in English language and literacy education. She is particularly interested in writing development, the relationship of talk and writing, teaching about language including pedagogic grammar, and the development of an educational linguistics. Her most recent book is Classroom Discourse Analysis: A Functional Perspective (Continuum, 2002).

    Gerald Coles is a full-time researcher, writer, and lecturer on literacy, learning and psychology. He is the author of The Learning Mystique: a Critical Look at ‘Learning Disabilities’, Reading Lessons: the Debate over Literacy, Misreading Reading: the Bad Science that Hurts Children, and Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation, and Lies, as well as numerous articles in education, psychology, and psychiatry journals. Before devoting himself to full-time research and writing, he was on the faculties of the Department of Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester. In 2001 he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University at Buffalo.

    Barbara Comber is Director of the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures at the University of South Australia. Her research interests include literacy, teachers' work, social justice, critical literacies, public education and school-based collaborative research. She has recently co-edited two books: Negotiating Critical Literacies in Classrooms (Comber and Simpson, 2001) and Critiquing Whole Language and Classroom Inquiry (Boran and Comber, 2001).

    Caitlin Dooley taught in urban elementary schools in the United States and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include upper elementary language arts instruction and cultural aspects of literacy education. She conducts research primarily in urban schools and enjoys teaching courses for pre-service teachers in the areas of reading and language arts methods.

    Carol Fox is currently Reader in English in Education at the University of Brighton. Her research interests include oral storytelling and literacy, cross-curricular collaboration in teacher education, multicultural English teaching and children's literature about war. She is the author of many journal articles and At The Very Edge of the Forest (Cassell, 1993), which is an account of her research on young children's oral storytelling. She is co-editor of Challenging Ways of Knowing in English, Mathematics and Science (Falmer, 1997) and of Ways of Knowing, a new cross-curricular journal dedicated to alternative ways of thinking about curricula and teaching and learning, published by the University of Brighton. Her most recent book is In Times of War (Pavilion, 2000), an anthology of children's literature about war published in collaboration with partners in Belgium and Portugal.

    Julia Gillen is Lecturer in Applied Language Studies at the Open University, UK. She is author of the textbook The Language of Children (Routledge, 2003). Her main research field is the language of child users of information and communication technologies, in particular the telephone. Since gaining her PhD in 1998, her work has been published in journals such as Language and Education, the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy and the British Journal of Educational Studies. She also enjoys working on flexible education and training resources and was multimedia co-ordinator and co-author of Shaping the Future: Working with the Under Threes. A Multimedia Training Pack (Open University Press, 2000). At present she is involved with two international research projects on aspects of young children's communications funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

    Eve Gregory is Professor of Language and Culture in Education at Goldsmiths' College, University of London. She has directed a number of projects funded by the ESRC, Leverhulme and Hamlyn on the out-of-school literacy and learning practices of young children in London's East End and is interested in family literacy in multilingual contexts. Her books include Making Sense of a New World: Learning to Read in a Second Language (Sage, 1996), One Child, Many Worlds: Early Learning in Multicultural Communities (Fulton and Teachers College Press, 1997) and City Literacies: Learning to Read Across Generations and Cultures (Routledge, 2000).

    Kris Gutiérrez is Professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Gutiérrez also serves as the Director of the Education Studies Minor and the Center for the Study of Urban Literacies. Professor Gutiérrez’ research focuses on studying the literacy practices of urban schools. In particular, her research concerns itself with the social and cognitive consequences of literacy practices in formal and non-formal learning contexts. Professor Gutiérrez is currently the Chair of the Standing Committee on Research for the National Council of Teachers of English. Her research has been published in Human Development, Mind, Culture and Activity, Reading Research Quarterly, Educational Researcher, the Harvard Educational Review, Linguistics and Education, Discourse Processes, the Bilingual Review Journal, Urban Education, the International Journal of Educational Reform, Education and Urban Society, Theory into Practice, Language Arts, and the Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies.

    Kathy Hall is Professor of Childhood Education and Head of the Centre for Educational Research at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. She has directed several research projects including studies funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Council, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and Esm Fairbain. She is currently leading a government-commissioned systematic review of evidence on primary and secondary English teaching. She has published widely on literacy and on assessment and her most recent book is Listening to Stephen Read: Multiple Perspectives on Literacy (Open University Press, 2003). She is completing a book entitled Making Formative Assessment Work (co-author Winifred Burke) also to be published by the Open University Press.

    Nigel Hall is Professor of Literacy Education in the Institute of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is co-editor of the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. He has directed a number of literacy-based projects, including the Punctuation Project, which has been supported by three Economic and Social Research Council awards. He has been on the editorial boards and editorial advisory boards of seven international literacy journals and has authored, co-authored or edited 20 books on literacy and literacy education and has authored over 30 chapters in other people's edited books. Recent books include: Letter Writing as a Social Practice (Benjamins), Looking at Literacy: Using Images of Literacy to Explore the World of Reading and Writing (Fulton and Heinemann), Exploring Play and Literacy in the Early Years (Fulton) and Learning about Punctuation (Multilingual Matters and Heinemann).

    Peter Hannon is a Professor in the School of Education and member of the Literacy Research Centre at the University of Sheffield, England. His main research and teaching activity is in the areas of literacy and early childhood education. He has directed projects in parental involvement in the teaching of literacy in the early school years, family literacy, preschool literacy development and community-focused programmes for children and adults. He is the author of Literacy, Home and School (1995) and Reflecting on Literacy in Education (2000).

    Cushla Kapitzke is a Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research interests include the literacies and pedagogies of new media and the political economy of information and communication. She is currently undertaking an Australian Research Council project that is investigating the blends of literacies in school libraries in Australia and the US. Key publications include Literacy and Religion (Benjamins, 1995) and articles in international journals such as Educational Theory, Teachers College Record and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.

    Laurie Katz is an Associate Professor in Early Childhood Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University. Her research and teaching pertains to children with and without special needs from birth through eight years of age and their families. Her research has focused on family and professional relationships, teacher education models and narrative developmental styles of preschoolers.

    Charmian Kenner conducted doctoral research at Southampton University into multilingualism and early writing, resulting in the book Home Pages (Trentham, 2000). From 2000 to 2002 she directed an ESRC-funded project Signs of Difference based at the Institute of Education, University of London, on how young children learn to write in more than one script system. She is a Research Fellow in the Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, and also works as a freelance lecturer and consultant in the areas of bilingualism and literacy.

    Michele Knobel is an Associate Professor at Montclair State University, New Jersey. Her research interests include school students' in-school and out-of-school literacy practices, new literacies and digital technologies. Her recent books include: Everyday Literacies, El Estudio Crtico-Social del Lenguaje and New Literacies (both with Colin Lankshear), Cyber Spaces/Social Spaces: Culture Clash in Computerized Classrooms (with Ivor Goodson, Colin Lankshear and Marshall Mangan), and the forthcoming Handbook of Teacher Research (with Colin Lankshear).

    Gunther Kress is Professor of Education/English at the Institute of Education, University of London. His question concerning the English curriculum in schools is: ‘What is it that English should be, and offer, in order to prepare young people for productive lives in their world?’ He has a specific interest in the interrelations in contemporary texts of different modes of communication – writing, image, speech, music – and their effects on forms of learning and shapes of knowledge. Some of his recent books are: Reading Images: the Grammar of Graphic Design (Routledge, 1996), Multimodal Discourse: the Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication (Arnold, 2001) (both with Theo van Leeuwen), Before Writing: Rethinking the Paths to Literacy (Routledge, 1997), Early Spelling: between Convention and Creativity (Routledge, 2000), Literacy in the New Media Age (Routledge, 2003), Multimodal Teaching and Learning: the Rhetorics of the Science Classroom (Continuum, 2002) and Multimodal Literacy (Lang, 2003).

    Linda D. Labbo is Professor in the Department of Reading Education at the University of Georgia where she conducts research on early literacy development with a focus on computer-related literacy instruction and pre-service teacher preparation. Dr Labbo's scholarly writing has been published in journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Language Arts, Journal of Literacy Research, and The Reading Teacher. Her co-edited book, Handbook of Literacy and Technology: Transformations in a Post-Typographic World, won an American Library Association Award as an Outstanding Academic Book of the year in 1998 and the Edward B. Fry Book Award from the National Reading Conference in 1999. She currently serves as a co-primary investigator (University of Georgia, Teacher's College, Columbia, University of Connecticut, University of Illinois-Chicago) on a research grant Case Technologies in Literacy Education (CTELL) funded by the National Science Foundation and Interagency Education Research Initiative to develop and examine the effectiveness of interactive, multimedia anchor cases on pre-service teachers' professional development and children's reading achievement.

    Lesley Lancaster is Senior Lecturer in Education at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has been involved in a number of projects with young children, teachers and parents looking at the development of language and literacy, including projects on narrative and argument. She currently teaches literacy and applied linguistics at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and directs a project which helps trainee teachers with knowledge and understanding of grammar. Her current research interests are in how very young children understand symbolic forms and systems, in multimodality, and in the development of multimodal systems of description and analysis. She has contributed journal articles in these areas and most recently a chapter in Multimodal Literacy (Kress and Jewitt, 2003).

    Colin Lankshear is currently a part-time Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Ballarat. He is also an educational researcher and writer based in Mexico, where he has lived since 1999. Formerly a Professor of Education and Research Director, his current academic interests lie mostly in exploring emerging literacies and cultural practices associated with new information and communications technologies, and research methods in qualitative inquiry. His recent books include Ways of Knowing, Maneras de Ver, and New Literacies (all with Michele Knobel), Teachers and Technoliteracy (with Ilana Snyder), and Boys, Literacy and Schooling (with Leonie Rowan, Michele Knobel and Chris Bigum).

    Joanne Larson is Associate Professor and Chair of Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester's Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Her research focuses on literacy as a social practice and examines the ways in which language and literacy practices mediate access to participation in literacy events. Her publications include research articles in Research in the Teaching of English, Written Communication, Linguistics and Education and Discourse and Society, and co-authored articles in the Harvard Educational Review, Language Arts, Urban Education and the International Journal of Educational Reform. She is the editor of Literacy as Snake Oil: Beyond the Quick Fix (Lang).

    Allan Luke is Dean of Research, Centre for Research on Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education, Singapore. He has published numerous books and articles in the field, including Literacy, Society and Schooling (Cambridge University Press), Literacy, Textbooks and Ideology (Falmer), Towards a Critical Sociology of Reading Pedagogy (Benjamins) and Constructing Critical Literacies (Hampton), and was a coauthor of the New London Group's ‘Pedagogy of multiliteracies’ work in Harvard Educational Review (1997).

    Margaret Mackey teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta in Canada. She is the author of Literacies across Media: Playing the Text (Routledge/Falmer, 2002) and The Case of Peter Rabbit: Changing Conditions of Literature for Children (Garland, 1998), as well as numerous articles about young people, their reading, and their media use. She has edited a volume of essays, BeatrixPotter's Peter Rabbit: A Children's Classic at 100 (Scarecrow, 2002), and is the North American Editor of Children s Literature in Education: an International Quarterly.

    Laurie Makin is Associate Professor, Early Childhood, at the University of Newcastle, Ourimbah Campus, New South Wales, Australia, where she is Director of the Children and Education Research Centre. Laurie has a particular interest in early language and literacy in both monolingual and bilingual children, and has published extensively in this area. She is one of the authors of Literacies, Communities and Under 5s (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2001), a professional development resource for early childhood practitioners; is co-editor of Literacies in Early Childhood: Changing Views, Challenging Practice (MacLennan and Petty, 2002); and is a Project Leader of the Support at Home for Early Language and Literacies (SHELLS) Project, designed for families with children from birth to three years.

    Jackie Marsh is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Sheffield University, where she directs the Literacy, Language and Culture Research Group. Her research interests focus on the role, nature and use of popular culture and media in the early childhood literacy curriculum and out-of-school literacy practices of young children. She has published a number of books in the field of early literacy and is the co-author, with Elaine Millard, of Literacy and Popular Culture: Using Children's Culture in the Classroom (Paul Chapman/Sage, 2002). She has written articles published in a range of journals including British Educational Research Journal, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, and Gender and Education and is a co-editor of the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

    Miriam Martinez is a Professor of Literacy at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is currently serving as Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and Curriculum and Instruction. Her research interests focus on children's and adolescents' responses to literature and their construction of meaning in literary texts. She is co-editor of Book Talk and Beyond with Nancy Roser, and is co-author of Children s Books in Children s Hands with Charles Temple and Junko Yokota.

    Elaine Millard is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield, Co-director of its distance learning MEd in Literacy and a founder member of the Sheffield Literacy, Language and Culture Research Group. Her main research interests concern the changing patterns of children's literacy practices and preferences and in particular in their relation to gender, social difference and cultural change. She is the author of Differently Literate: Boys, Girls and the Schooling of Literacy (Falmer, 1997) and co-author with Jackie Marsh of Popular Culture: Using Children s Culture in the Classroom (Chapman/Sage, 2000).

    Sharon Murphy is Professor of Education and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada. She has written on the areas of assessment and reading materials. Among her recent publications is Telling Pieces: Art as Literacy in Middle School Classes, co-authored with Peggy Albers, which extends theories of emergent literacy for print into the area of art education. Her latest book, co-edited with Curt Dudley-Marling, is Literacy through ‘Language Arts’: Teaching and Learning in Context, a collection of essays from the journal Language Arts that provides an introduction to the field of language arts education for pre-service teachers.

    Maria Nikolajeva is a Professor of Comparative Literature at Stockholm University. She is the author and editor of several books on children's literature, among them Children s Literature Comes of Age: Toward the New Aesthetic (1996), From Mythic to Linear: Time in Children's Literature (2000), and The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature (2002). She has also published a large number of articles in professional journals and essay collections. Her academic honours include a Fulbright Grant at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a research fellowship at the International Youth Library, Munich, and Donner Visiting Chair at bo Akademi University, Finland. She was the President of the International Research Society for Children's Literature in 1993–7.

    Shira May Peterson is a doctoral student in the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester and a Spencer dissertation fellow for 20034. Her dissertation focuses on classroom discourse in preschool, with an emphasis on how young children construct causal explanations through discussion with teachers and peers.

    Aria Razfar received his PhD from UCLA's Graduate School of Education and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education and Early Child Development at Whittier College. His research is grounded in sociocultural perspectives of literacy development. His current research focuses on how language ideologies mediate classroom discourse practices in urban contexts with a predominantly English language learner population.

    David Reinking is a Professor of Education and Head of the Department of Reading Education at the University of Georgia. He is the editor of the Reading Research Quarterly, published by the International Reading Association, and he was lead editor for the Handbook of Literacy and Technology (Erlbaum, 1998). His main research interest is in the relation between digital technologies and literacy.

    Jeanette Rhedding-Jones is Professor of Early Childhood Education at Oslo University College. Before migrating to Norway she taught language and literacy learning in Australian teacher education for almost two decades. From her early twenties to her early thirties she worked as a teacher-carer with children aged five to eight in school and aged three to five in preschools, and mothered four young children. Her publications are in Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Heinemann's The Literacy Agenda, The British Journal of Sociology of Education, Qualitative Studies in Education, Gender and Education, Journal of Curriculum Studies. She has taught research methodology in both Australia and Norway. She currently has a large research grant from the Norwegian Research Council to research gender, complexity and diversity in early childhood education.

    Muriel Robinson is Principal of Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln. She began her career as a primary teacher in Inner London and during this time developed a particular interest in language and literacy in the primary school. This led to a post working on teacher education programmes in the Faculty of Education and Sport at the University of Brighton, and to a PhD on children reading print and television, published as Children Reading Print and Television (1997). Other published articles and chapters are in areas extending this topic and in learning and teaching in higher education. In her current role she retains a research interest in the general area of media literacy and is a member of an ESRC-funded seminar group working in this area.

    Nancy L. Roser is Professor of Language and Literacy Studies, the Flawn Professor of Early Childhood, and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. A former elementary teacher, she now teaches undergraduate elementary reading and language arts, as well as graduate courses in teaching the English language arts and children's literature. Her research interests include close inspection of children's book conversations in classrooms. She is co-editor of Book Talk and Beyond with Miriam Martinez and Adventuring with Books with Julie Jensen, as well as over 100 chapters and articles related to teaching reading and the language arts.

    Deborah Wells Rowe is Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University where she teaches courses in literacy education and qualitative research methods. Her ethnographic research focuses on sociocognitive and sociocultural analyses of young children's literacy learning in home and classroom settings. Most recently she has explored issues of identity and access to learning opportunities in classroom activities that link drama, reading, and writing. She is author of Preschoolers as Authors: Literacy Learning in the Social World of the Classroom (Hampton).

    Patricia L. Scharer is a Professor of Education at Ohio State University and a trainer with OSU's Literacy Collaborative. Her research interests include early literacy development, phonics and word study, and the role of children's literature to foster both literary development and literacy achievement. She has served as co-editor of the Journal of Children's Literature and the ‘Children's Books’ column of the Reading Teacher. She is currently co-editor of Bookbird: a Journal of International Children's Literature. Professor Scharer is also co-editor of Extending Our Reach: Teaching for Comprehension in Reading, Grades K2 and co-author of Rethinking Phonics: Making the Best Teaching Decisions.

    Rhona Stainthorp is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Human Development at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her research interests centre on the development of literacy including reading, text composition, spelling and handwriting. Her work is informed by a background in cognitive psychology and linguistics. She is particularly interested in individual differences in development. She is co-author with Diana Hughes of Learning from Children Who Read at an Early Age (Routledge, 1999) which provides an account of her longitudinal research with precocious readers. She is director of the Language and Literacy Research Centre at the Institute of Education. For many years she has been involved with the education of teachers both at initial training level and in continuing professional development.

    Radhika Viruru is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture at Texas A&M University. Her research interests include postcolonial theory and its relevance to the field of early childhood education and qualitative research methods in education. She is the author of Early Childhood Education: Postcolonial Perspectives from India (Sage). She also co-edits the Childhood and Cultural Studies section of the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing.

    Jerry Zutell is a Professor of Education at the Ohio State University and Director of the OSU Reading Clinic. His research and scholarship is focused on the study of children's acquisition of word knowledge in reading and writing, with special interests in spelling development, spelling-reading connections, and oral reading fluency. His writings on these topics have appeared in Research in the Teaching of English, Language Arts, Reading Teacher, and Theory into Practice as well as in other journals, yearbooks and edited volumes. He is a former co-editor of the National Reading Conference Yearbook and the developer of the Directed Spelling Thinking Activity (DSTA), an innovative cycle of word study instruction.


    NigelHall, JoanneLarson, And JackieMarsh

    The last two decades have been powerful ones for the study of early childhood literacy. In many countries, much more attention is being paid to the early years than previously, as politicians recognise just how vital is this period of life. Alongside increased political interest, although largely quite independent of it, has been a resurgence of research as new definitions of early childhood literacy have developed, influenced by a wide range of disciplines (see Chapter 1). There are a number of approaches, therefore, which could have been undertaken in relation to the development of this handbook, given the current complexity and scope of the field. The handbook has 33 chapters, written by 45 authors who come from seven countries across four continents. On the whole, the chapters reflect a particular and distinctive view of early childhood literacy. There are some exceptions, partly because there are still areas of literacy untouched by the approach taken and partly because it is the case that a range of disciplines and approaches will always have an important contribution to make to understanding the relationship between young children and written language. However, the perspectives of many chapters in this book are based on a view that early childhood literacy is a global, social, historical, cultural, and political construct. Many of the chapters suggest that literacy is a social practice that is linked to cultural and linguistic practices and power relationships in specific contexts. As a social practice, literacy learning is mediated by language and accomplished in a context in which social actors position, and are positioned by, each other in verbal, non-verbal, and textual interaction.

    This approach was identified for a number of reasons. The first is that the concept of early childhood literacy as a socially-situated practice is a relatively recent development. Its origins lie mostly in the work of anthropologists, social linguists, ethnographers and semioticians who developed their ideas with adult communities. As a recent and still emerging perspective, it has received much less attention than have many others. The second reason is that it is important to focus upon a broad interpretation of early childhood literacy, even though that can sometimes be at odds with contemporary political views of the concept. Researchers must, of course, be interested in the powerful political realities that drive education and schooling, but the extent to which so much research in literacy is driven by the agendas of schooling obscures the other realities of literacy – especially that literacy has a life outside of and beyond schooling. Furthermore, we believe that researchers have both a right and an obligation to think about literacy as a widespread social practice for children as well as for adults. Early childhood literacy can no longer remain the exclusive domain of educationalists and developmental psychologists. The third reason for the approach taken to the shaping of the handbook relates to a recognition of the ways in which literacy is changing in contemporary society. During the late twentieth century, technological developments precipitated a paradigm shift in relation to communicative practices and there was a greater focus on the ways in which people analysed and produced a range of multimodal texts. These changes have impacted greatly on children's lives and today all children, including the very young, are actively participating in their development and use. Many of the chapters in this handbook acknowledge this strong emergent field of research in early childhood literacy and thus broaden traditional conceptions of literacy in the early years.

    Given the breadth of areas addressed by the chapters, some readers may feel uncomfortable with one particular absence. Nowhere in this book does any chapter deal with children who, for whatever reason, are finding literacy problematic. This absence is not because we feel this area is unimportant; on the contrary, we do appreciate how significant it is and recognise the many valuable contributions made by scholars conducting research in this field. Nonetheless, the focus of this handbook is on what children can do, rather than what they cannot do. There is already a range of rich literature on children who experience difficulties with literacy. There is a much smaller set of available literature centred around new visions of early childhood literacy.

    It is also possible that some readers will feel we have paid too little attention to schooling. However, whilst we acknowledge its importance, we cannot unreflectively accept its dominance. There is no lack of existing research into schooling and literacy; indeed until relatively recently it would be hard to find any other kind. What has been less widely recognised is the integrity of early childhood literacy as a subject of study in its own right, and in this handbook we seek to modestly redress this imbalance by foregrounding a wider range of research than that conventionally associated with formal systems of education.

    For the purposes of this handbook, we are defining early childhood as that period from birth to eight-years-old. This is a wider span than many others would accept. However, we recognise that whilst there are some variations in notions of early childhood in the Western world, there are even greater differences across the whole world. By taking a broader stance we increase inclusion, and if we extend beyond some people's preferences for what counts as ‘early childhood literacy’, then we also offer the opportunity to consider continuity of development across a greater period of time.

    The chapters in this handbook, therefore, offer a range of critical perspectives on research and key issues in particular aspects of the field. We do not claim a comprehensive overview of early literacy research in its totality, but suggest that the chapters here represent major themes in which leading authorities in the field provide rigorous social, cultural and historical analyses of aspects of early childhood literacy. The handbook is organised around five main themes.

  • Features of this Book

    This Handbook provides an overview of up-to-date research into early childhood literacy. It deals with subjects relating to the nature, function and use of literacy and the development, learning and teaching of literacy in early childhood. In addition it covers issues relating to research and will be a guide to those carrying out research in the field.

    The handbook particularly emphasises literacy as a socially situated and global experience, one that is evolving in relation to changes in contemporary culture and technological innovation.

    The arrangement of chapters reflects a contemporary perspective on research into early childhood literacy. Major sections include:

    • perspectives on early childhood literacy
    • childhood literacy and families, communities and cultures
    • early moves in literacy
    • literacy in preschool settings and schools
    • researching early childhood literacy.

    Nigel Hall is Professor of Literacy Education in the Institute of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University.

    Joanne Larson is Associate Professor and Chair of Teaching, Curriculum, and Change at the University of Rochester's Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

    Jackie Marsh is Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield.

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