Cynthia Merrill

Cynthia Merrill

University of New Hampshire

English


1996

Mentor: Thomas Newkirk - Professor of English

Emerging Literacy: The Nature of Children's Beginnings in Writing

Much literacy education begins before formal literacy instruction. Research indicates that practically all children in literate societies bring knowledge about literacy to school with them. My research was multi-purposed: (1) to synthesize three school-based studies (Graves, Calkins, Sowers, 1978 ) which have served as models showing that children have literacy capacities beyond what had been originally assumed, (2) to review and analyze studies influenced by these models and carefully investigate "emergent literacy", (3) to provide a conceptual framework in which to consider in detail the knowledge which these studies contribute to my understanding of children's early writing development, and finally (4) to observe the writing processes of a six-year old child as she learns to write.

It is perhaps this fourth objective that is the impetuous for my research. All of these studies provide good examples of how to combine various methods and theoretical orientations to answer serious questions about the nature of literacy and its development. This background information provides me with a critical lens to look at literacy events happening in the classroom &emdash; discovering that writing then provides more than a means of sharing experiences and influencing others, it fulfills the needs of the child to experiment, to create, to invent, and to communicate.

It is my hope that this study can provide some useful insight into the recognition of multiple discourses in literacy. With emphasis on the fundamental idea that it is the relationships between the arts &emdash; reading, speaking, listening, dramatizing, and creating artistically &emdash; children do break the code and gain access to literacy.

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