Childhood literacy is important in preparing children to be successful early on in their education. Early childhood education is ranges from birth to eight years old. These formative years of a child’s education plays a vital role in the student’s completion of his/her education in grades K-12. Creating opportunities for all learners despite their socioeconomic status has been the goal of early childhood. Throughout this literature review, strategies and methods will be presented that will display how technology can be used to contribute to literacy of all learners in the digital age of today. Some of the techniques that are currently being used in cultivating literacy in children will be discussed as well as some of the barriers of such practices that continue to exist.
Building Vocabulary in Young Children
Vocabulary skills facilitate reading in the latter grades. Studies show that less time is given to word knowledge instruction, than word pronunciation. Teaching students the meaning and the pronunciation can be more effective in building vocabulary. (Loftus-Rattan, 2016). Storybook reading along with viewing pictures will initiate interaction with the students; this can also be a strategy that will give more meaning to words rather than simply reading to children. This will establish a dialogue as well as give children a better understanding of the words and the context being used. Repeatedly giving students contact with vocabulary words by allowing them to retell the story with words that are targeted for understanding has been shown to increase vocabulary as well. (Loftus-Rattan 2016).
Another method that is used is building background knowledge. Background knowledge is built in by: teaching words categorically, creating contrast or comparisons of things that are different, use topic focused reading, and the use multimedia technology to give students a virtual experience that they can interrelate to the content. (Nueman, 2014).
Developing Pre-Literacy Skills
Children should develop some pre-literacy skills to be able to transition into becoming more familiar with reading. These skills should be developed before the process of learning to read is taught to students. Language should be used enough by the time they are three years old to connect words to communicate. The “Head Start” program follows a holistic approach in preparing children for literacy. They ascribe that children should be potty-trained, possess the ability to sit in a chair, and follow a planned routine before literacy can be taught. (Kantrowitz, 2002). Also, at risk children that are impoverished have language delays resulting from a minimal use of language in their environment. It has been found that these at risk children start school with a vocabulary of about 10,000 words verses 40,000 of middle class children. (Karntrowitz, 2002). Due to language delays preceding reading problems, this has been a contributing factor in the promotion of early literacy.
Practices for Developing Reading
Developing reading in young children can be done by giving them opportunities to communicate about what was read. Reading can be done anywhere, either with parents, in small groups, or in large groups. Children can be practice by labeling things in their environment the relationship of words to objects. (Seefeldt, 2001). The goal is to cultivate the desire to read in the child. Another strategy is to use different types of media to present materials such as illustrated books, e-books, and audio books. Books should contain content that would interest them and appeal to their curiosity. Allowing them to create their own material can help them to identify with the world around them. (Al-Barakat, 2010). Visits to the local library can also be a way to promote reading by allowing them to check out materials. A good teacher/parent relationship can establish reinforcement of reading practice at home. Showing parents some of the techniques to use with their children will give parents the tools to help their child at home.
The Role of Syllable Awareness
Understanding how one syllable words and multi-syllable words function in print is necessary for children to read. This is called the “concept of word.” Children develop this by using their finger to point to the words on the page. (Mesmer, 2015). When they repeat the words by matching them with orally spoken words, this helps them to understand how the printed word relates to the spoken word. Through these exercises children will begin to focus on the way the printed text appears. To instruct children in this the use of big books, charts can be used to help children see the words that are being read to them. (Mesmer, 2015).
Teaching Literacy by using Technology
Using technology in the learning environment can be useful in engaging young children in literacy. When setting up a literacy center with technology, there can be one device or multiple devices. Activities should be teacher assisted to ensure the students are engaged. Children’s art work can be displayed and an iPad can be used to take pictures of their work and displayed in the room. (Buckleitner, 2003).
Story Time at the local library is great for building reading skills. During this time, children are read to aloud from a variety of books. Through this activity, children can see how the spoken word and the printed word correlate. The library also has e-books that can be checked out digitally with a library card. (Paganelli, 2016). There is also a selection of audio books that can also be accessed without a card.
Types of Useful Technology Literacy
Children’s literature has been using technology to supplement traditional published books for some time. With the popular use of tablets, has come the creation of apps that are made for the use of children. These apps incorporate voices, pictures, and music during their use to engage young users. Using a blend of traditional printed text and technology can broaden young reader’s chances to read in and outside a formal classroom. With the use of technology, comes the assertion that technology does not replace the teacher, but that the teacher should use the technology as a tool to facilitate conversing about the content.
The other consideration, is which apps are the appropriate resource for to use in teaching literacy. Recently, the American Library Association’s released a listing Best Apps for Teaching & Learning (http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/best/apps). (Moller, 2016). Another app that is useful is Audioboom (http://audioboom.com), which allows teachers to record literature being read for students to access in the class room. After a recording is made, a picture of the book cover can be added to recording. Also the purchase of pre-recorded books from Children’s Digital Library (http://en.childreslibrary.org), Storyline Online (http://www.storylineonline.net), or PBS’s Between the Lions (http://www.pbskids.org/lions). These are helpful apps and they do not require the use of an IPad, plus they can be used on an android tablet. (Moller, 2016). Flash-card activities can also be received free from The Literacy Center (http://www.literacycenter.net). Picture books can be found within a database that has 5000 books searchable by key words for free also. (Buckleitner, 2003).
iPad Apps that promote Alphabet Recognition
Since the introduction of the iPad in 2010, it is one of the most purchased devices. Some of the apps that are available to use on the device that promote alphabet recognition and letter sounds are “ABC Go Go” and “Alphabet Learn”. “ABC Go Go” has lots of sounds, printed text, with picture to help students with letter recognition. “Alphabet Learn” has easy to see graphics and generates graphic representations to show students when they get the answer correct or incorrect. Phonic awareness and sight words are incorporated in the content. Available to teach writing is also an app called “Alphabet Tracing.” This app has a character that teaches students how to write letters. Students trace upper and lower case letters with real life photos. Students are also allowed to erase and start over. In addition to tracing letters, students listen to and say letters after they’re written. (Huang, 2013).
Using Technology to Document Instruction
Today, smartphones have the capability to record video and because of that teachers can use digital recording in their instruction as a learning tool. Digital recordings can be useful in documenting student’s progress in the classroom. Students can be shown the video and interact with the teacher about their experience. This teaches them about reflective thinking. The videos can be used as an assessment tool also to get feedback of student comprehension. (Hoffman, 2016).
The Changing Views about Technology in Education
Michael H. Levine in an interview with Education Week about his book, “How Tech Can Improve Youngsters’ Reading Skills,” states that there is a “quiet” crisis in reading. Technology can be helpful in bridging the gap by the guidance of families. He says his book helps parents understand how children learn to formulate language, which leads to better literacy. In the book, Levine and Lisa Guernsey present a balanced approach to technology being combined with existing practices of early childhood learning, a library program, and home-visiting community initiative as well as examine apps that claim to be formulated for educating preschool and primary students. This has led them to reveal that a lot of them do not meet the criteria for education of young children. (Education Week, 2015).
The Benefit of Using Multi-Components in the Classroom to Teach Literacy
When students are projected to have delays in literacy, intervention should begin in preschool due to it being the prime age when the most vocabulary growth occurs. Setting up a multi-component classroom can be beneficial. Shared book reading that incorporates strategies that allows the instructor to speak the words aloud to the children, asking the children to repeat it, providing a definition, and explaining the words by adding details and experience. This is an example of embedded instruction. The books containing pictures and words that are age appropriate for preschoolers, has been shown to be effective along with the use of technology, such as an iPad. There is an app called “Book Writer,” which can be purchased from iTunes for $4.99. This app allows you to create multi-media books with sound pictures and video. YouTube videos can be embedded into the app to give students additional practice in problem areas. The only known limitation is based on each individual child’s ability to remember the knowledge of the vocabulary. (Dennis, 2016).
The importance of developing the desire to read in young children is an integral part of closing the gap of reading deficiency. Direct intervention with parents and teachers working together will contribute to the solution of this problem. Early childhood literacy will benefit from innovative practices that show to increase student’s ability to learn reading skills. The integration of technology as a tool to incorporate with existing teaching practices can give teacher and students opportunities to create effective curriculum for all learning.
Al-Barakat, A. A. and Bataineh, R. F. (2011). Preservice childhood education teachers’ perceptions of instructional practices for developing young children’s interest in reading. Journal of Research in Childhood Education. 25(2), 177-193.
Dennis, L. R. (2016). The Effects of a Multi-Component Intervention on Preschool Children’s Literacy Skills. Topics In Early Childhood Special Education, 36(1), 15-29.Buckleitner, W. (2003). On the road to literacy- with tech! Early Childhood Today. 17950, 6-7.
Education Week , (2015, September 30). Personal interview with M. H. Levine and Lisa Guernsey
Heath, S. M., Bishop, D. M., Bloor, K. E., Boyle, G. L., Fletcher, J., Hogben, J. H., & … Yeong, S. M. (2014). A Spotlight on Preschool: The Influence of Family Factors on Children’s Early Literacy Skills. Plos ONE, 9(4), 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095255
Hoffman, E. B., Whittingham, C. E., and Rumenapp, J. C. (2016). Using tablets’ video technology to enrich early childhood read-alouds. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 44(4), 23-33.
Huang, SuHua, Clark, N., and Wedel, W. (2013). Teaching tips: The use of an iPad to promote preschoolers’ alphabet recognition and letter sound correspondence. Practically Primary, 18(1), 24-36.
Kantrowitz, B., Wingert, P., Joseph, N., & Springen, K. (2002). The right way to read. Newsweek, 139(17), 60.
Mesmer, H. A. E. and Williams, T. O. (2015). Examining the role of syllable awareness in a model of concept of word: Findings from preschoolers. Reading Research Quarterly, 50(4), 483-497.
Möller, K. J. (2015). Apps in literature-based classroom instruction: Integrating reading and response through traditional and digital media. Journal of Children’s Literature, 41(1),
Neuman, S. B., Kaefer, T., & Pinkham, A. (2014). Building Background Knowledge. Reading Teacher, 68(2), 145-148.54-60.
Paganelli, Andrea (2016). Storytime in a Digital World: Making a Case for Thinking Outside the Book. Knowledge Quest, 44(3), 8-17.
Seefeldt, C. (2001). A room rich in words. Early Childhood Today, 16(2), 34-41.