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Relationships Among Early Lexical and Literacy Skills and Language-Literacy Environments at Home and School by Joseph L. Constantine A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Childhood Education College of Education University of South Florida Co-Major Professor: Pamela O. Fleege, Ph.D. Co-Major Professor: Stephen B. Graves, Ph.D. Charlotte G. Dixon, Rh.D. William G. Emener, Ph.D. John Ferron, Ph.D. Date of Approval: October 6, 2004 Keywords: vocabulary, reading, asse ssment, preschool, kindergarten Copyright 2004, Joseph L. Constantine
Acknowledgments During this study and throughout the cour se of my graduate program, I was fortunate to receive advice and support from a tremendous group of people. I am forever grateful to my dissertation committee for gui ding me through the entire process and particularly to my major professors, Dr. Pamela Fleege and Dr. Stephen Graves, whose experience and insight were an inspiration. I would also like to thank Dr. Sandra Graham and Ms. Ronnie Laughlin for supervising the sp eech, language, and literacy screenings at the early childhood education centers. Brenda Brunelle did a wonderful job assisting with classroom observations and reliability checks. Special thanks are ex tended to all of the parents, teachers, and Center Directors who participated and made this study possible. Further, I would like to express many th anks to my parents, Monte and Sandy Constantine, and to my sister, Kimberly Constantine, for their patience, love, encouragement, and wisdom. I am also extremely thankful for my grandparents, Bill and Anne Rowan, who played such important roles in my life. Finally, I would like to thank my amazing wife and best friend, Sharon, for al l of her support, respect, patience, and love.
i Table of Contents List of Tables iv List of Figures vi Abstract vii Chapter One Introduction 1 Statement of the Problem 1 Purpose of the Study 3 Statement of Significance 3 Research Questions 4 Limitations of the Study 5 Overview of the Study 6 Chapter Two Review of Literature 7 Early Child Care and Education 7 Perspectives of Reading Development 11 Phonological Sensitivity 12 Semantic Processing 16 Metaliteracy 19 Integrating Cognitive, Soci al, and Linguistic Skills 23 Constructing Early Literacy Knowledge 25 Relationships between Language and Literacy 26 The Home Literacy Environment 32 The Classroom Literacy Environment 36 Chapter Three Methodology 43 Hypotheses 43 Participants 44 Measures 45 Procedure 52 Data Analysis 53 Chapter Four Results 56 Parent Education Level 59 Teacher Surveys 59
ii Classroom Language-Literacy Measures 62 Organization of the Classroom 67 Contents of the Classroom 67 Presence and Use of Technology 67 Opportunities for Child Choice and Initiative 67 Classroom Management Strategies 67 Classroom Climate 68 Oral Language Facilitation 68 Presence of Books 68 Approaches to Book Reading 69 Approaches to Childrens Writing 69 Approaches to Curriculum Integration 69 Recognizing Diversit y in the Classroom 70 Facilitating Home Support for Literacy 70 Approaches to Assessment 70 Home Literacy Surveys 70 Student Test Scores 73 Hypothesis 1 75 Hypothesis 2 76 Hypothesis 3 78 Hypothesis 4 79 Hypothesis 5 80 Hypothesis 6 81 Hypothesis 7 82 Post Hoc Analyses 83 Chapter Five Discussion 87 Findings Associated with Hypotheses 87 Hypothesis 1 87 Hypothesis 2 89 Hypothesis 3 90 Hypotheses 4 and 5 91 Hypotheses 6 and 7 93 Classroom Quality 93 Teacher Preparation 94 Student Age Groupings 95 Enrollment Costs 96 Classroom Characteristics 97 Proficient-to-Exemplary Classrooms 97 Basic Classrooms 98 Limited Classrooms 99 Curriculum Integration 100 Access to Childrens Books at Home 102
iii Implications of the Study 102 Identification of Children at Risk 103 Program Selection 103 Program Assessment 104 Teacher Mentoring 106 Student Assessment 107 Suggestions for Future Research 108 References 111 Appendices 131 Appendix A: Brief Teacher Survey 132 About the Author End Page
iv List of Tables Table 1 Variables and Sta tistical Procedures Associ ated with Hypotheses 55 Table 2 Means and Standard Deviations of Variables 57 Table 3 Correlations among Va riables in this Study 58 Table 4 Classroom Teachers Years of Education 60 Table 5 Continuing Education Hour s that Focused on Literacy 61 Table 6 Frequency of Teacher Reading to Children 61 Table 7 Frequency of Cla ssroom Writing Activities 62 Table 8 Language-Literacy Environment Scores by Classroom and Domain 65 Table 9 Number of Classrooms with Exemplary, Proficient, Basic, Limited, or Deficient Ratings 66 Table 10 Age when Parents Began Reading to Child 71 Table 11 Frequency of Parent Reading to Child 71 Table 12 Frequency of Care giver Reading to Child 72 Table 13 Number of Childrens Books at Home 72 Table 14 Frequency of Child Vi sits to the Public Library 73 Table 15 Student Vocabulary Scor es by Descriptive Category 74 Table 16 Student Numbers, Letters and Words Scores by Descriptive Category 74 Table 17 Correlations between HLE Subscores and CLE 75
v Table 18 Regression on VOC by H LE, Controlling for Education 77 Table 19 Correlations among CL E, HLE, VOC, and NLW, Controlling for Parent a nd Teacher Education Levels 77 Table 20 Regression on NLW by H LE, Controlling for Education 78 Table 21 Regression on VOC by C LE, Controlling for Education 79 Table 22 Regression on NLW by C LE, Controlling for Education 80 Table 23 Regression on VOC by C LE, Controlling for Education and HLE 81 Table 24 Regression on NLW by C LE, Controlling for Education and HLE 82 Table 25 Alpha Reliability for CLE, HLE, and TEL Measures 84 Table 26 Correlations among TEL 1, TEL 2, and TEL 3 85
vi List of Figures Figure 1. Mean Classroom Language-L iteracy Environment (CLE) Scores for Limited, Basic, and Proficient-to-Exemplary Classrooms 63
vii Relationships Among Early Lexical and Literacy Skills and Language-Literacy Environments at Home and School Joseph L. Constantine ABSTRACT This observational study examined th e relationships among home literacy environments, classroom language-literacy en vironments, and lexical and early literacy skills for 101 (56 male, 45 female) preschool and kindergarten children between the ages of 48 and 69 months. Data for multiple regression analyses were collected from 14 classrooms across 7 early childhood education centers in central Florida using the Home Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ), the Early Language & Literacy Classroom Observation Toolkit (ELLCO), and the Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills (KSEALS). Seven classrooms scored in the pr oficient-to-exemplary range on the ELLCO; 3 were rated as basic, and 4 were rated as lim ited. A statistically significant relationship (r = .20, p < .05) was identified between frequency of childrens visits to the public library and classroom quality ratings. The home liter acy environment accounted for 8.1% of the variance in student Vocabulary scores (r = .29, p < .01) and 3.9% of the variance in Numbers, Letters and Words scores (r = .20, p < .05) above and beyond teacher and parent education levels. Correlations be tween ELLCO ratings and students K-SEALS subtest scores were sta tistically non-significant.
viii Analyses revealed a statisti cally significant difference ( t = 4.75, p < .001) in ELLCO scores by age group. The number of ch ildrens books at home was statistically related to vocabulary scores (r = .26, p < .01). Program costs were not statistically related to classroom quality (r = -.002, p < .996). It was suggested that ea rly childhood professionals ga ther information about home literacy environments to assist in id entifying at-risk students. Parents should be provided with resources to enhance children s language-literacy e xperiences at home. Further, parents need assistance in evalua ting and selecting high-quality early childhood education programs. The use of academic tes ting as an indirect measure of classroom quality was not supported. However, teachers educational backgrounds were related to classroom quality, highlighting the need fo r qualified providers. Early childhood teacher mentoring programs are needed to help impr ove classroom language -literacy curricula. Student assessments should be informed by th e kinds of learning opportunities available to young children in their homes and communities.
1 Chapter One Introduction Statement of the Problem Literacy achievement is an elusive a ccomplishment for a large segment of the population in the United States. Currently, one out of five school-age children experiences reading failure (Lyons, 2001). In addition, most children with reading difficulties also present with phonological proce ssing delays and/or or al language deficits that further impact academic performance (Catts, Fey, Zhang, & Tomblin, 1999). Research findings have made it clear that students who do not read fluently by the time they reach the 4th grade, are likely to struggle with reading problems into adulthood. Changes in society with reference to tec hnology and access to information continue to increase the importance of developing ample lite racy skills. Illiteracy is associated with numerous negative outcomes for individua ls including substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, and involvement in the criminal jus tice system (Cramer & Ellis, 1996). The literacy acquisition dilemma in Amer ica has reached the point of a national public health crisis. Educators, investigator s, psychologists, speech-language pathologists and other professionals con tinue to advocate for high-qua lity early childhood education and intervention to help pr event reading difficulties in young children. Because of interrelated ties between early language development and liter acy skills, intervention and prevention experts have become extremel y interested in how children's learning
2 environments affect their reading abilities Unfortunately, curren t literacy screening batteries do not routinely include measures of home literacy or classroom literacy characteristics. Newly published results of longitudinal re search conducted over the past 15 years (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001) have highlight ed the value of using both early childhood (EC) classroom language and literacy envir onment data and home literacy environment data to predict language and literacy outcomes in elementary school and beyond. However, longitudinal research methods are cost-prohibitive and by definition, too time consuming to be efficacious in screening and identifying young children at risk for reading difficulties. Investigators and educator s are currently in the process of developing and implementing early literacy screenings to as sist in prevention of reading disabilities and future academic failure. Early childhood education research has not adequately examined home literacy environment quest ionnaire findings and classroom languageliteracy environmental ratings in relation to childrens performance on vocabulary and early reading tasks. Further, home literacy surveys with varied response formats have proven to be problematic in terms of reliability and validity. Use of simpler parent questionnaire formats has been recommended in order to obtain useable data in this area (Haney, 2000). Educators would likely benef it from the development of a practical survey that reliably quantifies the home literacy environment. Similarly, focused measures of the classroom language-literacy environment have only recently been published for research purposes (Smith, Di ckinson, Sangeorge, & Anastasopoulos, 2002). Hence, little information is currently availa ble about how results from such measures relate to childrens early lexi cal and literacy skills.
3 Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to ex amine relationships among the following variables: young childrens vocabulary, literacy knowledge, the home literacy environment, and the early childhood classroom literacy environment. This study seeks to add to our existing knowledge of variables a ssociated with liter acy achievement in young children. Findings about factors related to literacy developmen t may serve to assist early childhood professionals in designing more accura te and useful screening methods that simultaneously consider young children s home and school language-literacy backgrounds. In addition, previous studies (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001) have emphasized achievement of kindergarten children from low-income families without including preschool outcomes data. This study include s preschool and kinderg arten measures of achievement across an expectedly divers e range of socioeconomic levels as recommended by Haney (2000). Statement of Significance It is well established that both home a nd school environments make substantial contributions to emerging language and lit eracy skills. Literacy-based experiences provide a foundation for general knowledge of pr int concepts. It has also been discovered that conversational language experiences enhance development of literacy-related language skills. Narrative and explanatory language interac tions, for instance, prepare children for academic tasks connected to reading (e.g., vocabulary comprehension, reading comprehension, and narration) (Dickinson & Tabors, 1991). However, implementation of successful early chil dhood reading programs is dependent upon an understanding of childrens learning opportunities and envi ronments. Moreover, early
4 identification of children at risk for reading difficulties is essential for improving students academic success. Early developmental processe s in the literacy domain are strongly influenced by social learning experiences. Ca regiver expectations, aspirati ons, family structure, and community environments interact in comple x ways that prevail upon child development. For this reason, public law has required early interventionists and other childhood education professionals to implement family -centered practices in their work. Early childhood professionals need to be sensitive to the lifestyles, cultures, and perspectives of individual families. Therefore, educators are increasingly expected to acquire a broader knowledge base for dealing with variations in childrearing. (Anderson, Lee-Wilkerson, & Chabon, 1995). By examining multiple data source s at a fixed moment in time, this study reveals relationships between family perspectives of literacy, classroom literacy environments, and childrens linguistic knowle dge. Knowledge of these relationships can also help to inform decision-making proce sses regarding skills assessment and program assessment in early childhood programs. Research Questions Attention to the existing body of lite rature on early childhood language and reading development led to the following research questions: 1) What is the relationship between home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire results and classroom language-literacy environment (CLE) quality ratings? 2) What is the relationship between home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire results and student scores on Vocabulary (VOC) and Numbers, Letters and Words (NLW) measures, above and beyond pare nt and teacher education levels?
5 3) What is the relationship between classroom language-l iteracy environment (CLE) quality ratings and student scores on Vo cabulary (VOC) and Numbers, Letters and Words (NLW) measures, above and beyond pa rent and teacher education levels? 4) What proportion of the students Vocabular y (VOC) and Numbers, Letters and Words (NLW) scores can be explained by classr oom language-literacy environment (CLE) quality ratings, above and beyond parent a nd teacher education levels and the home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire resu lts? In other words, did using multiple data sources provide additional information for explaining student language-literacy scores? Limitations of the Study As with all research, there are potential limitations to this study. Researchers are expected to communicate possible limitations to readers, such that informed interpretations of results can be made. Fu ture investigators may also benefit from consideration of studies stre ngths and weaknesses. Results of this study may not be generalized to other populations of students. Data collecti on was limited to several local early childhood education centers located in a metropolitan ar ea in Florida. Participating early childhood centers and parents were se lf-selected, which may have affected the nature of the results obtained. In addition, parent surveys and teacher interviews are subject to positive response bias although step s were taken to acquire accurately reported data. Results from this study may not be generalized to students with multilingual backgrounds or students with cogniti ve or medical disabilities.
6 Overview of the Study Chapter 2 will provide an overview of the psychological, educational, and communication disorders research relevant to this study. Chapter 3 will provide specific descriptions of the procedures, hypotheses, pa rticipants, measures, and data analyses. In Chapter 4, the results of the study will be pr esented including descriptive statistics and statistical analyses. Chapter 5 will provide a discussion of the findings, a summary, and recommendations for future research.
7 Chapter Two Review of Literature Early Child Care and Education With more than 21 million children under the age of six in the United States, and approximately 75 percent of those children at tending some kind of early care program, the need for high quality early education is clear. Currently, early child care and education in America consists of a patchw ork of public and private programs including Head Start, public school, st ate-funded prekindergarten, ch ild care centers, and family child care homes. Although education is prim arily viewed as a state responsibility, no state has a comprehensive system of preschool education in place. Hence, the burden of financing early education for young children rests primarily on families. Parents pay an estimated $40 to $50 billion each year on early care and education. Even publicly housed programs such as Head Start and public pr eschool have begun requiring parents to pay copayments for services. In addition to priv ate funds, federal and st ate public funds are available to assist low-income families in a ffording these costs, however, public subsidies for child care are only suffi cient to support about 15 percen t of all eligible parents. Federal funds typically take the form of Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) (Mitchell, 2001). Large gaps in availability and afford ability of quality early childhood programs have led to discussions of universal preschool; also known as universal prekindergarten.
8 Universal preschool is, generally speaking, de signed as a free, voluntary service that promotes early learning of skills prior to kindergarten. Universal preschool programs have now been implemented in Georgia, Ok lahoma, and New York. Such programs have been consistently linked to a national ag enda of improved literacy outcomes for young children and a potential solution for closi ng the education gap. According to the Foundation for Child Development, governme nt policies can improve young childrens access to high quality care and education by es tablishing regulatory standards that apply to all early childhood programs, raising staff/te acher qualifications to be consistent with kindergarten teacher licensing, finding better ways of financing all types of programs, and developing an adequate infrastructu re for personnel preparation, continuing education, and teacher compensation (Mitchell, 2001). The federal government has responded, in part, by passing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Created to improve school quality and student performance, this law introduced new federal requirement s for student outcomes reading/literacy, teaching quality, school choice and innovation, and flexibility of federal programs. Reading First and Early Reading First grants have been made av ailable to states, school districts, and early childhood education centers to assist in promoting reading and overall literacy skills. Specifically, professional development oppor tunities for early childhood teachers have been provided in the areas of phonological awareness, conventions of print, alphabet knowledge, and oral language. According to the NCLB Act (2001), the purpose of the Early Reading First Program is to create preschool centers of excellence by improving the instruction and classroom e nvironment of early childhood programs that
9 are located in urban or rural high-poverty co mmunities and that serve primarily children from low-income families (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Still, definitions of centers of excellence continue to vary among leaders in education and government. In Florida, the State Board of Education (BOE) and the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Adviso ry Council have offered separate recommendations for the implementation of a state universal preschool program in 2005. (In November, 2002, Article IX of the St ate Constitution was amended to include voluntary universal preschool for all four-yea r-old children in Flor ida.) The State Board of Education recommendations emphasize ch ild performance of early language and literacy skills, school readiness standards, and consequences for poor performing schools. Further, the BOE has identified the Child Development Associate (CDA) as the necessary credential for teachers in UPK classrooms by 2006-2007. In contrast, the UPK Advisory Council recommendations emphasi ze assessments of children, teachers, learning environments, and programs. Accordi ng to the UPK council, programs should be evaluated with a focus on the quality of lear ning environments and interactions between children and teachers. Additionally, the UPK Advisory Council has suggested a phased implementation plan to require an associat es degree earned by at least one classroom staff member in 5 years and a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education earned by at least one teacher per classroom in 8 years. These contrasting approaches to universal preschool reflect significantly different philosophies about how to best facilitate language and literacy learning in young children (Florida Childrens Forum, 2003). Research data and knowledge are more th an sufficient to assist in designing ecologically sensitive preschool language-literacy interventi on and assessment methods.
10 Too often, recognition of the early bases of lite racy acquisition has re sulted in the use of inappropriate teaching and evaluation pract ices. No single method of teaching (or assessment) is likely to be effective for all ch ildren. Rather, teachers who are able to use a variety of strategies and build upon childre ns previous knowledge and skills, are the most effective facilitators of learning. Therefore, two of the most critical pedagogical skills for teachers are dynamic assessment a nd dynamic formation of the social learning environment. High quality literacy environm ents include frequent reading of books together, exposure to a variety of print media, and social interactions rich in language (e.g., rhyme, rhythmic activities, word ga mes). Furthermore, teachers who skillfully create literate classroom environments rooted in childrens interest s and experiences, set the stage for developmentally appropriate educational practices (Neuman, Copple, & Bredekamp, 2000). An ecologically sensitive approach to liter acy is not readily compatible with hard and fast curriculum standards. For instance, The Florida State Board of Educations proposed reading standards for 4year-old children do not addre ss individual variations in childrens home and school literacy backgr ounds. Currently, the proposed expectations for 4-year-olds are as follows: shows a ppreciation for books and reading, shows beginning understanding of concepts about pr int, demonstrates phonological awareness, begins to develop knowledge about letters, a nd comprehends and responds to stories read aloud (Florida State Board of Education, 2003). Ag ain, this type of a pproach to literacy assessment focuses heavily on developmental m ilestones, without considering the quality of interactions experienced by th e child or the impact of varied learning environments.
11 Perspectives of Reading Development Until recently, theoretical constructs about young children's acquisition of reading skills were based largely upon developmen tal and readiness models of learning. Developmental approaches focused on age-spec ific benchmarks for mastery of motor, communication, social, and/or adaptive beha viors. Readiness assessments determined how well children performed on tasks that were believed to be prerequisites to reading such as perception, acuity, and intel ligence (Reid, Hresko, & Hammill, 1989, 2001). These perspectives were based upon the followi ng assumptions: (a) reading is primarily a visual process involving print-sound relationships (b) children are not ready to read until they are five or six years old, (c) children re quire direct teaching to become literate, (d) reading instruction must be systematic and se quential, (e) basic skills must be acquired before children can behave in literate ways, a nd (f) basic skills are neutral or value free (Hall, 1987). However, these assumptions were challenged as new theories about the process of reading development unfolded. Investigators began to examine literacy development as a natural, spontaneous process whereby young children acquire lit eracy knowledge through a variety of experiences. These experiences include, but are not restricted to, formal instruction. Research has begun to shed light on the emer gence of children's early conceptions of reading and the range of abiliti es many children exhibit in the preschool years. Studies in this area have focused on children's understand ing of the functions of print and other symbols (Eeds, 1988; Y. Goodman, 1986; Ho ldaway, 1979; McGee & Richgels, 1996; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998), knowledge of book handling (Clay, 1966, 1985, 1991; Doake, 1981; Pinnell, 1996; Valencia, 1997), fa miliarity with formal, written language
12 structures (Bigge & Stum p, 1999; Clay, 1985; Langer, 1986; Martin & Brogam, 1971; Mason, 1984; Phillips & McNaughton, 1990; Sipe, 2000; F. Smith, 1971), and the identification of letters and numerals (Clay, 1985; McGee & Richgels, 1996; Reid, 1981; Worden & Boettcher, 1990). Such abilities are no longer viewed as precursors to reading readiness; rather, they are s een as true literacy behavior s evident in young children (i.e., emergent literacy) (Crawfor d, 1995; Hiebert & Raphael, 1998; Teale & Sulzby, 1986; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998). A review of the relevant liter ature revealed three conceptu al themes that relate to young children's learning processes in beginni ng to read. Investigators have examined associated aspects of early liter acy development including phonological sensitivity/speech perception, spoken language ability/semantic processing, and adultmediated metaliteracy/print awareness. Phonological Sensitivity Phonological sensitivity refers to the global set of cogni tive processing abilities that requires sensitivity to speech sounds. The term phonological awareness may also be used interchangeably with phonological sensitivity Over the past 20 years, research has focused heavily on speech perception and phonol ogically-based explan ations of reading development and reading deficits. Recently, scholars have begun to study the development of phonological awareness abilitie s in preschool children. Lonigan, Burgess, Anthony, and Barker (1998) investigated phonol ogical sensitivity in 2to 5-year-old children from lower-income and middleto upper-income families. The purpose of their study was to, first, determine whether or not it was possible to obtain reliable measures of phonological sensitivity in childr en within this age range. In addition, the researchers
13 were interested in gaining a better understa nding of phonological sensi tivity as it related to age and socioeconomic status (SES) in pres chool children. This st udy also filled a gap in the literature by ut ilizing large sample sizes (Total N = 356) and a wide variety of phonological sensitivity measures. Measures included syllabic, intrasyllabic, and phonemic sensitivity tasks. Results indicated that phonol ogical sensitivity could be evaluated in both younger and older preschool children. Children under 4 years of age did exhibit more variability in their performance across tasks and floor effects limited statistical comparisons for the 2and 3-year-old children. S till, the younger preschool child ren demonstrated a certain degree of phonological sensitivit y, especially for rhyme matchi ng tasks. At 4 years of age and higher, children in this study were f ound to show stability in their phonological sensitivity abilities across tasks and time. As in other studies, phonological sensitivity was also found to be predictive of word reading ability, independently of language skills. Findings revealed a general index of de velopment, whereby improved performance correlated positively with age. However, si gnificant phonological sensitivity differences were noted between social classes. Childre n from the middle-income group demonstrated significantly better gain s between 2 and 5 years of age than the lower-income group. The authors suggested the po ssibility that other SES-related f actors play an important role in early phonological development such as home literacy, language, and reading experiences. These results and interpretations re flect a trend in literacy research that has consistently identified SES as a predictor of reading achievement. It was interesting to note that such findings were obtained pertaining to preschool children at the beginning stages of phonological sensitivity.
14 Research conducted from this perspective has been driven by the belief that phonological processing and sensi tivity are central to the de velopment of early reading abilities. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore th e relationships among SES, phonological development, and reading perf ormance in young children. Additionally, it has been pointed out that strong relationshi ps exist between phonol ogical sensitivity and letter knowledge for both lower-income and higher-income children. These points have implications for research and interven tion involving exposur e to alphabet books, phonological activities, and lit eracy environments in ge neral (Lonigan, et al., 1998). Researchers have begun to study ways in which classroom instruction might help students with phonological processing problems in learning to read. Investigators have reasoned that if phonological skills are crit ical to reading, exp licit instruction in phonological awareness is needed to assist chil dren in bettering their decoding abilities. However, research has focused primarily on sc hool aged children rather than preschool children. This has been the case because of methodological considerations such as inadequate and/or difficult assessment pro cedures and lack of access to preschool populations outside of the public schools. As suggested earl ier, preschool children also demonstrate limited and varying levels of pr oficiency with discre te phonological tasks. Fortunately, studies of elementary school inte rvention programs have contributed to our knowledge of desirable teaching practices. Torgeson and his colleagues (1999) c onducted a study that compared the effectiveness of three instructional appro aches designed to prevent reading failure between kindergarten and second grade. Tw o of the teaching approaches were based upon the notion that children with phonological processing disabilities require explicit
15 instruction in phonological awareness; or more sp ecifically, phonemic decoding strategies. These two approaches varied in te rms of degree of explic itness of instruction. In contrast, a third method employed greater one-on-one intervention coordinated with classroom reading activities. Results suggested that the most exp licit method of phonemic instruction produced the greatest improveme nts in word level reading skills for participants. This approach focused heavily on word decoding and devoted little instructional time to text level interpretation. On the other hand, the authors raise a critic al question regarding the value of this finding, given the fact that the ultimate goal of reading is comprehension of contextualized information. Analysis of th e post-treatment data did not reveal any significant differences across comparison gr oups for reading comprehension of written texts. It is likely that the careful separation of teaching me thods into distinct groups in this study, in effect, neutralized any observable differences in outcomes. In other words, the design of the study was so compartmen talized that none of the intervention approaches corresponded to methods that would constitute quality instruction in the real world. These results help to interrupt and inform either-or debates over phonics-based or language-based instructional approaches to r eading. Clearly, the best reading intervention programs for children are those that address both word leve l decoding strategies and the construction of meaning from text. Additional research is needed to determine what fundamental building blocks are necessary to build balanced a nd effective reading intervention programs. Hence, researchers interested in the phonological processes
16 involved in reading development must also c onsider the role of spoken language ability and semantic processing in literacy acquisition. Semantic Processing Recent studies have begun to examine the interrelated nature of phonological processes and semantic processes with refere nce to reading. Findings from these studies have provided support for connectionist models of reading development that allow us to consider the compatibility of cognitive processes behind both phonetic decoding and sight-word recognition. These research endeavor s have also highlighted the unique role that semantic processing plays in early wo rd learning. Young children who are successful at mastering the basics of reading are ab le to make connections between phonology and orthography and between orthography and se mantics (Berninger, Abbott, & Zook, 1999; Gallagher, Frith, & Snowling, 2000; Laing & Hulme, 1999). Laing and Hulme (1999) were interested specifically in the phonological and semantic processes involved in beginni ng readers word-reading abilities. Two experiments were conducted to help define relationshi ps between visual word recognition, awareness of speech sound connecti ons, and semantic processing in 4to 6year-old children. The first experiment was de signed to examine the relationship between childrens cognitive phonological representation s and word recognition of three-letter words. A second study more directly investigat ed the role semantic factors played in word learning. The research designs were based upon the assumption that young readers begin to take advantage of both phonetic and semantic cues early on in order to make sense of print.
17 The results of experiment 1 showed that even children at the earliest stages of reading were able to utilize their understan ding of speech sounds and letters to learn phonetic decoding strategies. Furthe r, childrens abilities to lear n such cues were directly related their knowledge of word meanings The authors suggested that performance on a word interpretation task was analogous to normal processes in early reading development. It is believed th at young children are capable of making useful associations between print cues and speech producti on. As in previous studies, phonological awareness skills were closely related to how well beginning readers mastered novel items. It was not clear, however, how th e quality of childrens underlying phonological representations was affected by their abil ity to access and manipulate information through metaphonological processes. Findings from the second experiment shed greater light on higher-order metacognitive processes that form the foundatio n for learning to read. The investigators used imageability as a semantic variable with the a ssumption that imageability influences word recognition and comprehens ion. Imageable words provide a more detailed base of contextual data that lend themselves to a meaningful mental repr esentation. Words with higher levels of imageability deliver more semantic cues than words with lower imageability ratings. Results revealed that such semantic cues uniquely explained reading performance above and beyond phonetic decoding ability. In fact, it is likely that young children initially depe nd more on semantic cues than phonetic cues when developing early reading skills, incl uding phonemic awareness. These findings are important,
18 especially given the fact that numerous mode ls of reading development have overlooked the role of semantic processes and focuse d heavily on phonological sensitivity (Laing & Hulme, 1999). Similarly, Gallagher, Frith, and Snowling (2000) discussed the early stages of learning to construct meaning from print, prio r to the acquisition of decoding abilities. In their article, the point is made that ch ildren begin to interpret symbols by making hypotheses about phonetic features and seman tic relationships. Findings from the study supported this notion and highlighted the impor tance of higher-level language abilities critical to the task of readi ng. Literacy delays (LD) were found to be linked to deficient vocabulary knowledge as well as depressed sp oken language ability of children between 4and 6-years of age. These kinds of conclu sions have led many researchers to interpret their observations from a connectionist perspective. A connectionist perspective proposes th at the learner anal yzes connections between spelling (orthography) and the phonol ogy of words already represented in memory. Some have suggested that it is, in fact, possible to teach word recognition without teaching phonics explicit ly. Studies have indicated th at short-term interventions based upon this philosophy can be effective w ith beginning readers. Berninger, Abbott, and Zook (1999) tested a remedial instruction program for first grade students that made connections between spoken and written words explicit; but did not employ phonics per se The children made significant progress in wo rd identification and word attack skills when taught via the whole word approach. S o, it is conceivable that multiple cognitive pathways exist for learning (and teaching) relationships between spoken and written words.
19 The authors also mention the importan ce of knowledge of word meanings in developing improved reading performance. In order for preschool or school-aged children to discover semantic -orthographic connections, they must possess adequate vocabulary knowledge and the ability to acce ss an organized mental dictionary or lexicon. Of course, metacognitive strategy use for accessing information and vocabulary development can be greatly affected by the ex tent to which adult caregivers facilitate these skills in young children. Adults provide models for early language development and convey implicit and explicit messages rega rding expected liter acy behaviors in a particular childs environment. Metaliteracy Caregivers play a vital role in transm itting language and literacy skills to young children. Childrens social interactions with adults inform them as to the nature and purpose of literacy behaviors. As children be gin to conceptualize the codes and meanings intrinsic to literacy, they develop met acognitive and metalinguistic knowledge. The research literature has addressed awareness of print, or metaliteracy as a key component of metalinguistic ability. This research is based upon a no tion of emergent metacognition that evolved out of Vygotskys socio-cu ltural and developmental theory (Vygotsky, 1962). Preschoolers beginning to read and write have dem onstrated the ability to construct meaning from text by employing the cognitive self-management processes of planning, monitoring, and regulating action. It is believed that children learn to internalize these processes as they interact in social e nvironments. Supportive learning environments, then, provide children with opportunities to rehear se executive control
20 over self-thoughts and actions. A recent study of 4and 5-year-old ch ildren indicated that most of the participants posse ssed at least basic metacognitive abilities with reference to emergent literacy tasks (Fang & Cox, 1999). Ev idence suggested that, in fact, many of the children demonstrated strategic pla nning, self-monitoring, and self-correction processes while constructing an autonomous te xt aloud. However, these results should be viewed with caution due a relatively small (N = 44) and homogeneous (all Midwestern Caucasian) sample. It has been suggested that proficiency with higher-le vel self-manag ement abilities in young children may be partly explained by th e frequency and types of experiences they have had with literacy events (e.g., storybook reading). Adult-child storybook experiences often involve high levels of scaffolding, language modeling, and direct language-literacy instruction. Such interactions have the potential to increase childrens metalinguistic awareness prior to conventi onal reading. In this respect, literacy acquisition may be viewed as, a process of cognitive socializ ation (Brown, 1956). Recent research has provided support for conceptions of adult-mediated metaliteracy development/print awareness in young children (Ezell & Justice, 2000; Justice & Ezell, 2000; Justice & Ezell, 2002). These stud ies have indicated that adultchild shared book readin g activities are instrumental in scaffolding childrens knowledge of print concepts. Thus, parents and educator s can facilitate childrens awareness of the forms of print and the connection between oral language and written language. Such awareness is crucial in providing a framework for childrens cognitive manipulation of linguistic elements that comprise reading and writing (e.g., phonemes, graphemes, words, and sentences, etc.).
21 Furthermore, adults may be trained to be more effective at building childrens metacognitive and metalinguistic competenc y. Ezell and Justice (2000) found that when caregivers were specifically trained to use print-referencing behavi ors with 4-year-old children, the frequency of child-initiated print-referencing behaviors increased significantly after five months of intervention. Children lear ned to call attention to and discuss discrete aspects of print including the concepts of letter and word for instance. This finding was especially noteworthy given the fact that neither the adults nor the children in this study evidenced any substantial print-referenc ing behavior (verbal or nonverbal) prior to th e intervention. In another study, print and word awareness were investigated in a home-based parent intervention program aimed at impr oving early literacy skills in 4-year-old children. Justice and Eze ll (2000) were interested in exploring the feasibility of providing an effective four-week interv ention that focused on word aw areness, alphabet knowledge, print recognition, word segmentation, and conven tions of print. Again, pretest findings revealed low rates of verbal references (e.g., comments, requests, and questions about print) to print for parents in both an expe rimental group and a cont rol group. Non-verbal references to print (tracking and pointing) were more common fo r parents during the pretest period. Statistically significant increas es for all parental referencing behaviors measured were observed at the time of th e posttest. Furthermore, shared book reading with adult print-referencing produced significant gains in ch ildrens awareness of words in print, word segmentation, and print c onventions. A lack of effect for alphabet knowledge was a concern although results may ha ve been impacted by a ceiling effect for this task at pretest. It should also be mentioned that the children in this study were
22 selected from a pool of typical ly developing preschoolers. Ther efore, it is not possible to generalize the results of this study to at-risk children or children w ith known language or literacy delays. To address the question of how childre n at-risk would respond to book reading sessions with a print focus, Justice and E zell (2002) conducted a similar study with 30 thirty children enrolled in Head Start who were between the ages of 3 and 5. Results did reveal improved performance for the experi mental group across th ree print awareness tasks including word awaren ess, print recognition, and alphabet knowledge. The intervention was conducted over an eight-week period in this case. However, the measured improvements were not found to be st atistically significant, possibly due to the limited duration of the program. Also, informal measures were utilized rather than standardized measures, which had implicati ons for reliability a nd validity of data obtained. Still, reading sessions with a pr int focus produced a gain of nearly 20 percentage points for overall print awareness, compared to a gain of 7 percent for the control group. Future research would benef it from using standardized instruments for measuring early literacy skills over a longer period of intervention. Studies of this nature have determined that before entering elementary school, children are responsive to direct instruction in beginning reading skil ls. The research has suggested that shared adultchild reading activities are us eful in faci litating early literacy/metaliteracy development. Effectiv e early instruction can be provided in preschool and/or home literacy environments. Moreover, preschool literacy experiences have been shown to be predictive of later reading success. Dickinson and Tabors (1991) found that rich and varied language-literacy experiences at home and in preschool
23 produced beneficial effects on literacy achieve ment at age five. The authors discovered strong relationships between literacy-base d experiences and specific print skills. Conversational adult-child inte ractions, such as narrative a nd explanatory talk and group book reading at school, were foundational to childrens vo cabulary and early reading development. Further, the results of the study revealed a set of pred ictors for 3and 4year-old children that was explanatory of reading ability in kindergarten. Skills that were critical to literacy outcomes included vocabulary knowledge, story comprehension, and narrative construction. Integrating Cognitive, So cial, and Linguistic Skills Phonological sensitivity/speech percepti on, spoken language ability/semantic processing, and adult-mediated metaliteracy/pri nt awareness are essential to literacy acquisition. These themes form a framework that depicts literacy development as a multifaceted process involving layers of inte rrelated cognitive func tions. While research has attempted to peel back the layers for cl oser inspection, it is becoming apparent that from an early age, children simultane ously integrate phonological, semantic, and metaliterate knowledge. The existing literature is limited by the fact that it has not yet adequately explained the complex relations hips among cognitive processes in reading acquisition. Additionally, studies conducted to da te have targeted relatively small sample sizes and have used primarily quantitative re search designs. Future research utilizing larger samples or employing qualitative trad itions may provide gr eater insight into reading development. Much of the research has assumed th at reading is a multi-componential skill whereby different skills are directly fostered by separate experiences. In contrast, Snow
24 (1991) presented a model of literacy developm ent that depicts a variety of interactive experiences that support childre ns learning of decontextualiz ed language. In this model, four domains are highlighted w ith respect to preschool langu age-literacy development: a) conversational language skills, b) decontextualized oral langu age skills, c) print skills, and d) emergent literacy skill s. Snow has argued that social learning experiences at home and at school are inextricably related to ch ildrens contextualized and decontexualized (e.g., conveying information to a listener with limited background knowledge) spoken language skills. By the same token, subseque nt development of reading comprehension abilities is believed to be dependent upon the cognitive leap from decoding to more advanced contextual understanding. Studies of early literacy development cont inue to reveal the capabilities of young children who are able to understand phonological, morphologi cal, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic relationships. Linguistic and me talinguistic awareness can be viewed as precursors to greater automaticity of info rmation processing. As cognitive processes become more automatic, additional time a nd space is available for analysis of new linguistic categories, such as recognition and interpretation of print. Hence, oral language knowledge and metaprocessing of language can serve as a brid ge to reading. Even at the earliest stages of reading, children demonstrate conscious awareness of phonological, lexical, semantic, and social-pragmatic linkages. Indeed, initial performance on phonological and semantic-syntactic processi ng tasks is highly predictive of future linguistic and reading ab ilities. Therefore, it is essentia l for early interventionists and researchers to build integrated theoretical models of literacy, social, linguistic, and cognitive development in preschool children (M enyuk & Chesnick, 1997).
25 Constructing Early Literacy Knowledge Children who live in litera te societies begin learni ng to read long before formalized school instruction takes pl ace (Allington & Cunningham, 1996; Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; Glazer, 1989; N. Hall, 1987; Hall & Moats, 1999; Moss & Fawcett, 1995; Smith, Goodman, & Meredith, 1976; Sonnenschein, Brody, & Munsterman, 1996; Yaden, Rowe, & MacGil livray, 1999). There are at least three different but highly interrelated components of reading discovered by most children during the preschool years (Adams, 1990; Bigge & Stump, 1999; Clay, 1966, 1991; Moss & Fawcett, 1995; Pearson, 1999; Reid, et al., 2001; Snow, et al., 1998; Sulzby & Teale, 1991; Teale & Sulzby, 1986). Prior to school-a ge, children begin to (a) understand and utilize the alphabet, (b) deduce the arbitrary conventions of print in reading and writing, and (c) construct meaning from print. The development of these three components occurs simultaneously, not sequentially. Literacy skills start to emerge between the ages of 18 months and 2 years, as children develop the ability to recall past events and objects no longer in view. Children begin to learn that symbols such as drawings, letters, and scribbles can represent objects, events, feelings, and people. Proficiency with emergent literacy skills evolves through children's everyday experiences with environm ental print. Even at very young ages, children are able to use their knowledge about people, objects, and events (i.e., environmental contexts ) to interpret familiar words such as milk and cookies (Hiebert, E. 1978; Reid, et al., 1989, 2001). Still, large numbers of American studen ts experience difficul ties in learning to read (Applebee, Langer, & Mullis, 1988; Na tional Assessment of E ducational Progress, 1985; Torgesen, 2001). Researchers have sought to gain improved understanding of the
26 processes that promote and/or hinder early reading development in young children. They have attempted to identify specific aspects of literacy learning that are related to later reading achievement. For example, numerous studies have suggested that alphabet knowledge (e.g., letter-naming) is an excelle nt predictor of begi nning reading success (Bond & Dykstra, 1967; Calf ee & Drum, 1986; Chall, 1967 ; Muehl & DiNello, 1976). However, much of the research completed has focused on school-aged children. More recently, research has addressed children's acquisition of written language/alphabet knowledge prior to school entrance and its connection to decodi ng and early reading abilities (Clay, 1985; Lonigan, Burgess, & Anthony, 2000; McGee & Richgels, 1996; Reid, 1981; Reid, et al., 2001; Worden & Boettcher, 1990). Relationships between Language and Literacy Alphabet knowledge has come to be viewed as an important piece of the reading puzzle. It is important to note, however, th at research with both typically developing children and children with developmental dela ys has suggested that a broad range of language and literacy skills are necessary for individuals to achieve success with reading (Snow, et al., 1998). Knowledge of the conve ntions and meanings of print, phonological awareness, narrative abilities, and other early language fa ctors have been found to be related to later reading performance (Bad ian, 1988; Badian, McAnulty, Duffy, & Als, 1990; Barnhart, 1991; Elbro, Borstrom, & Petersen, 1998; Felton & Brown, 1990; Hurford, Schauf, Bunce, Blaich, & Moore, 1994; Maclean, Bryant, & Bradley, 1987; O'connor & Jenkins, 1999; Perfetti, 1985; Rayner & Pollatsek, 1989; Roth, Speece, & Cooper, 1997; Scarborough, 1989; Snow, Tabor s, Nicholson, & Kurland, 1995; Stuart, 1995; Torgesen, Burgess, Wagner, & Ra shotte, 1996; Uhry, 1993; Wells, 1986).
27 Linkages between various aspects of child language development and literacy learning are certainly well documented in the literature, although the interrelationships involved are complex and not well understood (Catts, Fey, & Proctor-Williams, 2000; McGee & Richgels, 2000; Menyuk & Chesnick, 1997; Searfoss, Readence, & Mallette, 2001; Simpson, 2000; Snow, et al., 1998). Indeed, the range of linguistic variables examined in individual studies has often been limited to phonological awareness and/or rapid naming tasks (Catts, Fey, Zhang, & Tomblin, 2001). Phonological awareness has been the center of a flurry of attention, as researchers continue to confirm relationships between phonological processing and the acquisition of early reading skills. According to Liberma n, Shankweiler, & Liberman (1989), reduced ability to process the phonologi cal features of language may be the single most important indicator of reading disab ility. Phonological awareness and rapid automatic naming performance have been found to relate to and/or causally affect the pace at which children learn early r eading skills such as word recogni tion (Bradley & Bryant, 1985; Fox & Routh, 1983; Liberman & Shankweile r, 1985; Lundberg, Olofsson, & Wall, 1980; Stanovich, Cunningham, & Cramer, 1984; Tunmer & Nesdale, 1985; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987; Wagner, et al., 1997; Yopp, 1988) Studies have only recently begun to address these issues in preschool-aged children (Chaney, 1992, 1994; Maclean, Bryant, & Bradley, 1987; van Kleeck, Gillam, & Mc Fadden, 1998). Thus, research does not yet give a definitive answer to the question of how young ch ildren make the leap from phonological awareness to conventional reading. It has been argued that although the study of phonological processi ng is useful in understanding the decoding process, it prov ides limited information about reading
28 achievement in terms of actua l reading comprehension. From this perspective, other language abilities (i.e., seman tic-syntactic) are critical to deriving meaning from printed texts (Perfetti, 1985; Rayner & Pollatsek, 1989). In fact, some research has indicated that overall language ability (in both preschool and kindergarten) is a bette r predictor of later reading comprehension ability than phonological awaren ess, rapid naming ability, or other task-specific language measures (Cat ts, 1993; Lewis, 2000; Snow, et al., 1998). Even toddlers who later "recovered" from ge neralized expressive language delays and whose reading skills did not differ from peer s at age 6 or 7 have been found to score lower than their comparison peers on read ing tests by ages 8 or 9 (Rescorla, 2002). In addition, young children identified with speech-language problems have been shown to be at greater risk for reading di fficulties than children without histories of speech-language delays (Bishop & Adams, 1990; Catts, Fey, Zhang, & Tomblin, 1999; Menyuk & Chesnick, 1997). More precisely, child ren with reading problems often have related oral language deficits. This inform ation provides further empirical evidence in support of the language-literacy connection (Catts, et al., 2000; Catts & Kamhi, 1999). In order to read at the word level, children mu st be skilled at bringing conscious awareness of phonology and lexical meaning to words. More over, efficient reading of sentences and passages requires mastery of complex seman tic, syntactic, and discourse related aspects of language (Menyuk & Chesnick, 1997). Recent studies have also highlighted the fact that both phonological processing and oral language proficiency account for unique variance in reading ach ievement in second and fourth gr ade readers (Catts, Fey, Zhang, & Tomblin, 1999; Catts, et al., 2000).
29 Such complex linguistic requirements create barriers to reading for children with language problems. Again, only limited resear ch has investigated precise preschool predictors of reading success in elementa ry school. However, initial studies have reflected the importance of developing lett er knowledge and phonologi cal sensitivity in preschool children (Lonigan, et al. 2000, L onigan, Burgess, Anthony, & Barker, 1998; Scarborough, 1989). Catts et al. (2001) have s uggested that predictive hypotheses about preschoolers' future reading skills must curr ently be based upon the presence of severe language and developmental disabilities and/ or a family history of reading deficits. Preschool children with language impairme nts frequently exhibit problems with phonological awareness, narrative, and print -related concepts e ssential to literacy development. Research has indicated that young children with language delays have difficulties across tasks of print awareness including responses to environmental print (Gillam & Johnston, 1985; Paul, 1996). Furt her, children with language impairments have been shown to demonstrate signifi cantly less developed metaphonological (e.g., rhyming, segmentation, identification of phonemes) and morphosyntactic (e.g., meaninggrammatical) skills than t ypical peers (Magnusson & Naucler, 1990a, 1990b). Research with typically developing children has suggest ed that early literacy skills fall into a unitary construct, whereby children who perform well on one literacy task tend to perform well across a range of early literacy tasks (Barnha rt, 1991; Boudreau & Hedberg, 1999). Attempts to uncover the ex act nature of the relatio nship between language and literacy development are confounded by the f act that not all ch ildren with language impairments experience difficulty with learni ng to read. It has been suggested that
30 reading difficulties may be dependent upon the type of language deficit present. Language impairments that are severe in part icular aspects and/or specific to certain reading-related processes such as comprehe nsion, semantics, and/or auditory memory, might have a greater impact on reading performance (Bis hop & Adams, 1990; Boudreau & Hedberg, 1999; Catts, 1993; Scarborough, 1998; Wilson & Risucci, 1988). Still, it is feasible to make reasonable predictions of reading achievement for individual children based predominantly upon early langua ge factors (Catts, et al., 2001). In a major epidemiologic study, Catts, et al. (2001) identified five kindergarten variables that uniquely pred icted reading performance in second grade: letter identification, sentence imitation, phonological awareness, rapid naming, and maternal education level (as a socioeconomic indicator) This investigation utilized a range of kindergarten language measures that addressed receptive and expressive vocabulary, syntax, narration, phonological awareness, and rapid automatized naming. Unfortunately, this study did not include many participants from minority groups or explore predictive variables in preschool populations. Badian (1994) investigated phonological awareness, serial naming speed, and orthographic processing in young children six months before kinderg arten and again 19 to 24 months later. In order of significan ce, findings suggested that letter naming, sentence memory, object naming speed, or thographic knowledge, and socioeconomic status (SES) predicted first grade reading comprehension. A revised preschool screening battery accurately identified 91 percent of good and poor readers in first grade. Another study (Foy, 2001) examined rhyme awareness, p honemic awareness, articulatory skills, speech perception, vocabulary, and letter and word knowledge in 4to 6-year-old
31 children who were just beginning formal r eading experiences in private preschools. Results from this study did not confirm th e strength of phonologica l representations in connection with phonological awareness skills Rather, associations were evident between spoken language tasks and phonologica l awareness skills. Lonigan, Burgess, & Anthony (2000) found that letter knowledge and phonological sensi tivity were unique predictors of decoding from late pr eschool to early elementary school. During the preschool years and early grad es, children are enga ged in the process of expanding their use and comprehension of language. Language comprehension and expression abilities are directly related to children's expe riences and understanding of the world. Exposure to oral and written texts (e.g., narrative and expos itory) is vital for learning to monitor what makes sense and what does not make sense. In addition, oral language opportunities provide a medium for beginning to question and respond to texts read during important joint li teracy experiences at home. Early conversations revolving around shared sequential, associative, and/or descriptive events ar e critical for teaching young children to develop and test hypotheses about what will happe n next (i.e., story event prediction). Such dialogue is also esse ntial for children to become effective at comprehending both contexualized and decont extualized information and making the semantic links necessary fo r text comprehension (Ameri can Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2001). According to the National Associati on for the Education of Young Children (2001), caregivers should be aware that listening, speaking, reading, and writing are integrated elements Early language interactions for infants and toddlers are literacylearning experiences. Further, adult involvement in child language-litera cy activities
32 supports acquisition of blended skills acr oss communication modalities. Ideal literacy environments allow children to explore thei r environments and develop the conceptual and experiential foundations for learning to read and write. Opportunities for lengthy, indepth conversations about a variety of topi cs prepare children for future interactive literacy experiences. Parents and caregive rs also support literacy development by demonstrating a range of strategies for de riving meaning from experience. High-quality literacy environments exhibit multiple uses of language and reading skills and associate literacy activities with pl easure, enjoyment, and in trinsic value. The Home Literacy Environment Conventional perspectives of reading delineate two cri tical components: decoding and comprehension. Decoding is typically thought of as a bottom-up skill in which print is analyzed and then matched to representations in the mental lexicon. It is widely agreed that decoding skills are supported by letter name and letter-sound knowledge, phonological awareness, and other metali nguistic skills. On the other hand, comprehension is viewed as a top-down skill that requires hypothesis-forming, inferencing, predicting, and general knowledge of the world (Boudreau & Hedberg, 1999). Children begin construc ting knowledge of the wo rld during their initial experiences at home with family members. Yet, tremendous diversity exists among individual families' home literacy environments and related parental practices with young children. Re search has focused on analyzing variance in home environments through observations, parent interviews, and parent questionnaires. Considerable evidence no w exists that differences in home literacy environments for preschoolers are closel y associated with subsequent literacy
33 achievement. For example, poor and less educat ed families tend to provide children with fewer opportunities for verbal interaction a nd contextual vocabulary development. Since vocabulary knowledge is related to reading outcomes, families that exhibit reduced amounts of verbal interac tion pose risks for young children's literacy development. Conversely, families that frequently engage in positive language and literacy experiences create a framework for child rens communication enhancemen t (Snow, et al., 1998). To be sure, low SES presents both indi vidual and group risk factors for children learning to read and write. The problem is compounded by mediated effects of substandard schools and child care in low-in come communities. Yet, according to Snow, Burns, & Griffin (1998), SES differences by them selves are relatively poor predictors of individual student achievement. When viewed as part of a larger picture that includes school quality and other variab les, on the other hand, SES is a valuable piece of the literacy development puzzle. A recent study of the home literacy envir onment and literacy motivation factors was conducted with 92 kindergarten participants (Frijters, Barron, & Brunello, 2000). In this project, the Home Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ) was used to gain information from parents about their children's literacy e xperiences at home. Five multiple-choice questions were asked and each received a numerical value between 1 and 5. The questions provided researchers with informati on related to the frequency of parent-child book reading, frequency of other caregiver -child book reading, and the frequency of visits to the public library. In addition, items asked what the child's age was when the parent first began reading to him or her and how many children's books the child had at home. Results suggested that home literacy en vironment and literacy interest accounted
34 for significant variance (21%) in oral vo cabulary and letter-name and letter-sound tasks (18%). The study did not address pres chool children spec ifically and the Home Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ) can be utilized in research with younge r children to gather information about their early home literacy experiences. Caregivers communicate the value of literacy to young ch ildren during their everyday lives. Early childhood expe riences with reading are dire ctly related to children's attitudes about reading. Parents have a uni que opportunity to surround children with positive literacy experiences in the formativ e years. Parents/caregivers can encourage their children to have a positive attitude about reading and to approach books with confidence. Parental praise reinforces childre n's attempts at reading and telling stories. Home environments have great potential fo r creating opportunities for children to experience success across a variety of liter acy activities. Ideally, caregivers choose reading materials that relate to children's ideas, interests, and hobbies. Parents express the value of reading by assisting children in understandi ng the meaning of what they read and by sharing their pleasure in books, magazines, newspapers, and other written forms. Parents have a potential opportunity to create a book-rich environment in children's homes. The family literacy environment is developed by parents' choices regarding the type and number of books availa ble, frequency of visits to the library, the amount of enjoyment derived from literacy act s, and the connecting of books and stories to real life. Caregivers play a pivotal role in paraphrasing stories as needed to engage beginning readers in the process of contextu al discovery. Early reading skills emerge quickly as caregivers help children make sens e of words and pictures on the page. Adults value reading as an important activity by r eading to children, listening and talking to
35 them, singing, reciting poetry and nursery r hymes, and creating family language games during daily routines (Wang, 2000). One of the most widely discussed compone nts of the home literacy experience is parent-child reading, also referred to as shared book reading, joint book reading, or dialogic reading. (In some cases, the term dialogic reading is used in reference to conversational reading interactions, as opposed to rote reading aloud by an adult. For the purpose of this discussion, these terms are used interchangeably with the understanding that levels of caregiver responsivity a nd conversational turn -taking vary along a continuum.) According to a position statemen t issued by both the International Reading Association and the National Association fo r the Education of Young Children (1998), reading aloud to children is the single mo st important preschool activity related to reading success. Parental reading behaviors that promote learning of literacy concepts include asking predictive questi ons and analytic questions. Su ch adult-child question and response patterns serve to improve childre n's vocabulary knowledge and understanding of texts. The language intera ctions that permeate parent-c hild reading activities are, therefore, critical for childr en to begin making connections between print and their own life experiences. In addition, social experiences with books facilitate metacognitive and metalinguistic abilities. As children rece ive rich modeling, scaffolding, and direct instruction from adults, they become increasi ngly aware of their ow n thought processes. Reading activities offer a permanent medi um for experimental problem-solving and organization of language and ideas. In this respect, cognitive-lingui stic representations and literacy constructions inte ract as children form indepe ndent theories of language.
36 Reading, writing, and thinking activities all incorporate methods of mental planning, self-monitoring, and self-evaluati on. Early literacy experiences/interactions reinforce and guide learners in their quest to become stra tegically literate. Strategic learners are highly efficient at organizing linguistic concep ts and constructing meaning from text. In order to achieve maximum le vels of competency, young children must be exposed to explicit discourse regarding langua ge in print and the functions of written language across genres (Fang & Cox, 1999). The Classroom Literacy Environment Preschool experiences can provide st rong support for childrens language and literacy development. Nonetheless, studies ex amining preschool quality have discovered that classroom environmental language ratings are characte ristically low in centers serving poor children. A study of public preschoo l centers in North Carolina revealed that programs serving economically disadvantaged children had lower ratings on language and reasoning measures than any other ar ea assessed. These preschool environments lacked opportunities for dramatic play and othe r language-rich social interactions. Similar results were obtained when analyzing 32 Head Start classrooms in terms of language learning activities (Bryant, Peisner-Fei nberg, & Clifford, 1993) Another study that focused on preschool language environments was the Bermuda Day Care Study (Phillips, McCartney, & Scarr, 1987). Th is investigation indicated the quality of classroom conversation and the amount of time dedicated to one-on-one or sma ll group interactions were highly related to measures of langua ge skills. Similarly, quality of group book reading with 4-year-old children has been co rrelated with kindergarten language-literacy measures (Dickinson & Smith, 1994).
37 Unfortunately, many preschool centers pr ovide few opportunities for children to experience meaningful communicative exchanges. However, adult caregivers have been shown to make substantial improvements in classroom literacy interactions when given adequate resources and trai ning. Neumann (1996) provided ca regivers with children's books and training regarding book selection, re ading aloud, and expanding the impact of books. Results suggested that literacy interact ions increased from an average of 5 per hour to 10 per hour following intervention. Furt her, 93 percent of the centers developed literacy centers, compared to just a few book centers in preschools before the study. It is encouraging to note th at quality preschool experi ences can make a difference in children's long-term academic outcomes. For instance, the numb er of months that children attend preschool has been found to correlate with achievement measures in second grade (Pianta & McCoy, 1997). Additionally, Crone & Whitehurst (1999) examined the effects of school experience on em ergent literacy and ea rly reading skills in 337 children from low-income backgrounds. Re sults indicated that children who began attending preschool one year earlier than same-aged peers performed these tasks better than their less experienced counterparts. In fact, the impact of an additional year of schooling on early reading abil ities was 4.3 times stronger th an the effects of age. Many children begin school with a vast amount of literacy experience to draw from and build upon. They have learned the basic forms and purposes of both oral and written language and have achieved a degr ee of success with alphabetic and phonological awareness skills. These children are ready to co ntinue on their journey toward mastery of conventional reading skills. Still, numerous other children have not experienced
38 supportive literacy environments prior to kinderga rten. It is critical for these children to receive direct instruction and immersion in print-rich settin gs at school (Adams, 1990). For preschoolers, physical preparation of the classroom literacy environment is essential to facilitating la nguage and literacy development. Dunn, Beach, & Kontos (1994), for example, found that poor preschool literacy environments lacked adequate materials and were closely associated with measures of child language development. Although the importance of providi ng preschool children with pr int-rich environments is now widely agreed upon, detailed descripti ons of literacy-focused settings have only emerged relatively recently. Loughlin and Mart in (1987) suggested that there are seven features common to high-quality literacy enviro nments: (a) interesting things to read and write about, (b) varied places to settle down for reading and writing, (c) books everywhere, (d) references where needed, (e ) space and tools for literacy, (f) access to materials and time to become engaged, and (g) opportunities to display one's own work. Morrow (2001) has developed the Evaluating and Improving the Literacy Environment Checklist to assist in assessing literacy f eatures in early childhood settings. This checklist evaluates four areas in detail: (a) the literacy center, (b) the library corner, (c) the writing center, and (d) the literacy-rich environment for the rest of the classroom. According to Morrow, preparation of a lite racy-rich physical environment is key for motivating children to read and write. She r ecommends the use of dramatic play centers, visually prominent functional print, signs, word walls, and charts in the classroom. Thanks to Morrow and other early childhood education researchers, there is now a growing consensus about what exactly c onstitutes an ideal classroom literacy environment for young children. Both the physical environment and the social
39 environment play a role in either promoti ng or delaying literacy learning for students. The physical environment has been shown to have an active and pervasive influence on childrens involvement with literacy activitie s. Providing books, paper, pencils, and other literacy materials in dramatic play areas resu lts in significant gains in voluntary literacy. Literacy behaviors affected by changes in the classroom include paper handling, writing, reading, pretend reading, storytelli ng, and book handling (Morrow, 1990). Still, there is relatively little rese arch data available on existing literacy environments in early childhood classrooms (i.e ., preschool to third grade). Longitudinal research (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001) has indicat ed that teachers can support literacy development by using varied vocabulary, ch allenging children to think, and creating classroom environments that stimulate curi osity about written la nguage. Interactive book reading activities are essentia l to building childrens lite racy knowledge. Unfortunately, the same research revealed that time spen t on shared book reading was often limited in early childhood classrooms. In fact, very fe w teachers approached classroom book use in carefully thought out ways. Weaknesses in cl assroom environments were consistently noted in terms of making literacy materi als available and engaging children in book reading experiences. There is valuable information present in the literature regarding socialinteractionist perspectives of emerging literacy, in part be cause of the importance of language interactions in form ing foundations for learning to read and write. Social interactionist views of le arning suggest that language development occurs during everyday communicative exchanges with adul ts. According to this perspective, responsive (i.e., child-centered) input from a dults is essential for childrens learning to
40 take place (Bohannon & Bonvillian, 1997; Bruner, 1975; Tannock & Girolametto, 1992). Responsive adults encourage childrens ex tended conversationa l turns and model semantic expansions of childrens communi cative attempts. Girolametto and Weitzman (2002) state that responsive strategies impact language acquisition by creating joint attention and action, enhancing motivational and attentional processes, and scaffolding childrens participation at in creasingly higher levels of comprehension and production. However, research on teacher-child inte ractions has indicated that teachers typically utilize overly directive and unrespons ive talk with young children (Cicognani & Zani, 1992; Pellegrino & Scope si, 1990; Polyzoi, 1997). Even so, few studies have examined teacher directiveness in relation to contextual differences and effects on child participation. One study found that patterns of directiveness varied depending on the activity/context (Girolametto &Weitzman, 2000 ). Book reading produced more behavior control (attention calls ), response control (comprehensi on questions, yes/no questions), and topic control. During a play dough activit y, teachers followed the childs lead more often and turn-taking was more balanced. Such child-directed play also yielded greater child talk. On the other hand, in some cases, di rectiveness may facilita te participation of children who are less linguistically competent. Hence, further research is needed to clarify ways in which classroom disc ourse can best support language-literacy development in varied social and cultural c ontexts. By the same token, one-on-one shared book reading activities also contai n potential pitfalls for educat ors interested in fostering literacy development. Adults may fail to monitor childrens engagement or fail to respond to childrens interest in storybook r eading. Teachers may not be sensitive to individual childrens learning ch aracteristics or to sociocultural differences in interaction
41 style. Further, the very nature of book readi ng interactions can lead to didactic patterns wherein adults fail to ensure skill ma intenance (Kaderavek & Justice, 2002). Before more individualized interventions can be implemented, however, it is vital for early childhood personnel to identify children who are at risk for delayed literacy development. Justice, Inverniz zi, and Meier (2002) have o ffered suggestions for speechlanguage pathologists and other professionals interested in conducting early literacy screenings with children under 5 years of age. These authors have emphasized the importance of early identification of children at risk for later difficulties with literacy acquisition. For the most part children who fall behind in the literacy curriculum, continue to experience ongoing literacy failure without adeq uate adult support. Early intervention is, therefore, cr itical for young children who stru ggle early on with literacy concepts. Speech-language pathologists can play a significant role in preventing literacy problems and assisting greater numbers of young children in achieving academic success. Well-designed literacy screening protocols can also help lay the groundwork for more intensive assessment and intervention strategies such as direct therapy and/or classroombased initiatives. Early literacy screenings c ould be constructed in a manner that reflects what is known about factors that are pr edictive of later literacy achievement. These factors include spoken language abilities as well as family-based risk factors such as limited English proficiency, low socioeconomic status, and familial history of reading difficulties. In addition, Justice et al. (2002) suggest attention to five areas of preschool performance that are significantly related to literacy outcomes: (a) written language awareness, (b) phonological awareness, (c ) letter name knowledge, (d) literacy
42 motivation, and (e) the home literacy environm ent. Furthermore, the authors recommend comparing early literacy screening results to specific classroom literacy environments, especially in light of the extreme variability in early childhood classroom languageliteracy activities and expectations.
43 Chapter Three Methodology Chapter 3 outlines the methodology for this study including hypotheses, participants, measures, pro cedure, and data analysis. Hypotheses The seven research hypotheses tested in this study were: 1. There will be a modest statistical re lationship (r = .2 to .45) between home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire results and classroo m language-literacy environment (CLE) quality ratings. 2. There will be a statistically significant relationship between home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire results and student Vocabulary (VOC) scores, above and beyond parent and teacher education levels. 3. There will be a statistically significant relationship between home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire results and student Numbers, Letters and Words (NLW) scores, above and beyond pa rent and teacher education levels. 4. There will be a statistically significan t relationship between classroom languageliteracy environment (CLE) quality ratings and student Vocabulary (VOC) scores, above and beyond parent and teacher education levels.
44 5. There will be a statistically significan t relationship between classroom languageliteracy environment (CLE) quality rati ngs and student Numbers, Letters and Words (NLW) scores, above and beyond pa rent and teacher education levels. 6. A statistically significant proportion of the students Vocabulary (VOC) scores will be explained by classroom language-literacy environment (CLE) quality ratings, above and beyond parent and t eacher education levels and the home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire results. 7. A statistically significant pr oportion of the students Nu mbers, Letters and Words (NLW) scores will be explained by classroom language-literacy environment (CLE) quality ratings, above and beyond pa rent and teacher education levels and the home literacy environment (HLE) questionnaire results. Participants The sample included 101 preschool and kindergarten children enrolled across 7 early childhood education centers and 14 classr ooms in a metropolitan area in central Florida. The ages of these children ranged from 4-years, 0-months to 5-years, 9 months. Only students who were English-speaking and monolingual were includ ed in this study. Home exposure to a language (or languages) other than English also resulted in removal from this data set. In order to be included, students had to be enro lled in their current classrooms for at least 6 months. Since this study focused on environmental factors, participants were also ex cluded based upon known disabilitie s (e.g., hearing loss, autism spectrum disorder). Students who failed a he aring screening on the day of testing were not included in the data analysis. Socioec onomic backgrounds of these children were expected to range from lower class to upper middle class. Further demographic data were
45 collected to provide added information about the students in this study. Information was obtained regarding birth date, gender, school enrollment, and classroom teacher. Center Directors and parents were contacted about this study a nd participated on a voluntary basis. The early childhood e ducation centers included in this study had previously participated in speech, langua ge/literacy, and hearing scr eenings conducted by speechlanguage pathology graduate stude nts at the University of S outh Florida. An Information Sheet described the study to Directors, teacher s, and parents and offered the possibility of classrooms earning free childrens literatu re as an incentive for participation. Participating Center Directors and teachers agreed to have an observer evaluate their classroom language-literacy environments and assisted in collection of parent questionnaires. Measures Vocabulary and early literacy sk ills were measured using the Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills (K-SEALS; Kaufman & Kaufman, 1993). The KSEALS is an individually-administered norm re ferenced standardized test which yields standard scores with a mean of 100 and a sta ndard deviation of 15. This test is designed for children between the ages of 3-year s, 0-months and 6-years, 11 months. Standardization of this measure was based upon results from 1000 subjects in 28 states and all 4 geographic regions in the United St ates. Subjects were selected to match 1990 U.S. Census population statistics for gender, socioeconomic level, and race or ethnic group. Further, item bias analyses were perf ormed to address gende r or race/ethnicity bias. Items that appeared to be biased were removed from the measure. K-SEALS technical data indicated high test-retest (V ocabulary .85; Numbers, Letters and Words
46 .92) and split-half reliability (Vocabular y .88; Numbers, Letters and Words .94) coefficients and substantial construct, conc urrent (Vocabulary .68; Numbers, Letters and Words .61), and predictive (.76) validity. [V alidity measures are in comparison to the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R; Dunn & Dunn, 1981), a commonly used measure in research studies.] The KSEALS is widely used in preschool and kindergarten language and literacy screenings In addition, the K-SE ALS is designed for use as a reliable research tool. It assesses ch ildrens expressive langua ge skills, receptive language skills, knowledge of number concep ts and symbols, and knowledge of letters, and words. Subtest scores obtained for this study included the Vocabul ary Subtest and the Numbers, Letters and Words Subtest. Items on the Vocabulary Subtest were designed to correlate with measures of g or general intelligence. K-SEALS Vocabulary scores have high levels of concurrent va lidity with other commonly us ed tests of vocabulary and intelligence. K-SEALS vocabulary items assess vocabulary identification, naming abilities, and integrated word knowledge. Perf ormance of these task s is dependent upon early language development, verbal con cept knowledge, and fund of information. According to the K-SEALS manual, such skills are directly related to childrens early language and literacy experien ces and the richness of th eir learning environments. The Numbers, Letters and Words Subtes t evaluates early symbolic knowledge in the areas of reading and emergent literacy sk ills. This subtest addr esses number naming, number recognition, verbal-number concepts letter naming, letter identification, word reading, and printed word identification. R ecognition and interpretation of symbols is critical to early literacy development. The Numbers, Letters and Words Subtest was
47 designed to measure childrens visual perc eption of objects and sy mbols and application of early literacy abi lities related to language environmen ts and experiences. According to the K-SEALS manual (Kaufman & Kaufman, 199 3), symbol knowledge is rooted in childrens exposure to books, magazines, and interactive language experiences. The Early Language & Literacy Classroom Observation Toolkit-Research Edition (ELLCO; Smith, et al., 2002) is a recently pub lished instrument de signed to assess the extent to which classroom environments support young childrens la nguage and literacy development. The ELLCO was developed to provide quantitative data regarding classrooms for students between the ages of 3 (preschool) and 8 (third grade). ELLCO measures have been used and tested exte nsively in research projects in over 300 classrooms and 3 states. Data co llected using the toolkit prov ide valuable information to researchers interested in early childhood language and literacy education. When combined with measures of student literac y skills, ELLCO toolkit results shed light on associated program methods, curric ulum, and student outcomes. The ELLCO examines features essential to exemplary literacy instruction. In this study, the Classroom Observation and Teacher In terview section was utilized to collect data on literacy practices in each classroom. The Classroom Observation scale includes 14 dimensions of the language-literacy e nvironment that are divided into 2 broad categories: 1) General Classroom Envi ronment and 2) Language, Literacy, and Curriculum. Each of the 14 dimensions is rated on a scale from 1 (deficient) to 5 (exemplary). According to the ELLCO manual, observers should situate their scores within one of the major score points if possibl e (i.e., 1, 3, or 5). The adjacent score points (i.e., 2 and 4) are to be used if evidence is mixed, when attributes of two levels are
48 present or when the item can not be scored w ith the major score points. A brief structured teacher interview serves to check reliability of results and add supplemental information to the observations. The 14 dimensions obser ved and rated were: organization of the classroom, contents of the classroom, pres ence and use of technology, opportunities for child choice and initiative, cl assroom management strategies, classroom climate (General Classroom Environment); oral language facilitation, presen ce of books, approaches to book reading, approaches to childrens writ ing, approaches to curriculum integration, recognizing diversity in the classroom, facilitating home suppor t for literacy, and approaches to assessment (Langua ge, Literacy, and Curriculum). Scores are generated using the rubric provided on the ELLCO assessment form and are combined to form subtotals and totals. Pilot testing of the Classroom Observation measure has produced considerable psychometri c data supporting its reliability. Interrater reliability data indicated 90% or better ag reement between observers using the Classroom Observation scale. Internal consiste ncy was good-to-very good as indicated by Cronbachs alpha results for General Classroom Environmen t (.83), Language, Literacy, and Curriculum (.86), and the Classroom Ob servation Total (.90). Test-retest data suggested stable results for Classroom Ob servations conducted between Fall and Spring in control classrooms. Moderate correlations (.31 to .44) were reported between ELLCO Classroom Observation scores and a meas ure of overall quality of early childhood learning environments (Classroom Prof ile; Abbott-Shim & Sibley, 1998). Other comparisons to environmental rating instru ments were not made since the Classroom Observation was developed to fill a unique need for an adequate systematic assessment of early language-literacy classroom experiences.
49 The authors analyses (Smith, et al ., 2002) of the ELLCO Classroom Observation as a prediction tool suggest th at it can be used in correla tional research. Initial findings suggested that Classroom Ob servation scores accounted for 15% of the variance in receptive vocabulary scores and 20% of the variance in literacy abilities above and beyond control variables. In addition, the same ELLCO measures accounted for 80% of the between-classroom variance in vocabul ary and 67% of the between-classroom variance in beginning literacy sk ills. ELLCO measures have been tested in a variety of settings to ensure cultur al appropriateness and objectivity. The ELLCO Classroom Observation was carefully designed to avoid bi ased perspectives of literacy acquisition. ELLCO measures were created to fit the need s of Head Start and other programs serving diverse populations, with the assumption that teachers have a res ponsibility to respond appropriately to different literacy skills a nd learning needs of indi vidual students. The Home Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ; Frijters, et al., 2000) was utilized as a measure of childrens home literacy experiences. The HLQ has been employed in previous research and its authors reported a Spearman-Brown split-half reliability of .77. Results from the HLQ have been shown to account for 21% of the variance in oral vocabulary and 18% of the variance in early literacy knowledge, when combined with a measure of childrens literacy inte rest. As mentioned earlier, the Home Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ) consists of 5 multiple-choice questions regarding frequency of parental shared book reading, frequency of caregiver shared book reading, frequency of visits to the library, the nu mber of books the child has, and the age that shared book reading began. Hence, the items on the HLQ deal directly with parent -initiated supports of their childrens literacy learning.
50 In this study, the questionnair es were completed by a pare nt and returned to early childhood centers. In order to minimize positive response bias, the survey text briefly described potential benefits of the study and encouraged parents to respond truthfully to each item. Since literacy skills may have been a barrier for some parents in completing forms, follow-up telephone calls were made to parents who did not return completed questionnaires. When possible, missing su rvey data were co llected via telephone interviews. Previous research has revealed significant relationship s between reports of home literacy teaching and measures of r eading skills. For example, the number of storybooks at home, according to parent repor t, has been found to be predictive of vocabulary knowledge (Snchal, LeFevre, Th omas, & Daley, 1998). Item responses (ae) were converted to numerical scores (1-5), resulting in a total pos sible score of 5 to 25. An additional (sixth) item was included on the parent questionnaire to obtain information about the socioeconomic status of each subjects parents. This item asked the parent to report the highest educational level reached by a parent or caregiver who lives with the child. Five multiple-choice responses were provided: a) junior high/middle school, b) high school or GED, c) 2 years of college or other postsecondary schooling, d) 4 years of college or other postsecondary schoo ling, or e) masters degree or higher. Use of parent education level is well documented in the li terature as an index of socioeconomic status. (Catts, et al, 2001; Kaufman & Kaufman, 1993; National Center for Children in Poverty, 2003). In order to mini mize any bias of the parent questionnaire, all items were reviewed by a panel of speech -language pathologists with expertise in assessment and diversity issues. No modi fications were recommended for the items
51 dealing specifically with the home literacy environment. The added item regarding parent education level was revised for clarity a nd cultural sensitivity based upon suggestions from the panel. An 8-item Brief Teacher Survey was created to gather data about teachers educational backgrounds and practices. The teacher survey consisted of 4 items pertaining to teachers educational prepara tion, 2 items regarding classroom practices, and 2 items regarding student characteristics. Potential bias of items on this measure was addressed by checking reliability with ot her measures and by examining internal consistency. The first question asked teach ers which statement best described their educational backgrounds: a) high school gra duate, b) high school plus a few college courses, c) 1 year of college or other posts econdary schooling, d) 2 years of college or other postsecondary schooling, or e) 4 years of college or more. Question 2 identified the number of hours of continui ng education attended (e.g., works hops, seminars) in the past 2 years. Question 3 identified the number of continuing education hours attended in the past 2 years that focused speci fically on literacy development. Alternatives included: a) 0-5 hours, b) 6-10 hours, c) 11-15 hours, d) 16-20 hours, or e) more than 20 hours. Teacher education level scores were genera ted from the first 3 items by assigning point values (1-5) to each response and combining into a total. The fourth question asked teachers to indicate how many times in a week they read to children in the classroom: a) not at all, b) 1-3 times per week, c) 4-6 times per week, d) 7-9 times per week, or e) more than 10 times per week. The fifth question as ked teachers to report how many times in a week children participate in classroom writing activities. Re sponse choices were identical to those listed for question 4. Question 6 asked teachers to li st specific institutions where
52 they received their education. Additional items allowed teachers to identify any students with disabilities or students who had not been enrolled in that partic ular classroom for at least 6 months. Procedure As an ongoing service, the University of South Florida Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders pr ovided free speech-language and literacy screenings at participatin g early childhood centers. Gradua te clinicians in speechlanguage pathology administered the K-SEALS as part of the screen ing procedure. Prior to data collection, graduate clinicians rece ived extensive indivi dualized training from clinical supervisors in class meetings and tutorials that took place over a 2-week period. Two clinical supervisors participated in this study, each with an assigned team of 10 to 15 graduate clinicians enrolled in a diagnostics practicum. Each of the clinical supervisors who participated in this study had more than 20 years experience evaluating young childrens language and l iteracy abilities. Test administration, scor ing, and interpretation were supervised directly by these certified speech-language pathologists. Furthermore, accuracy of scoring for all K-SEALS testi ng was checked in detail by the clinical supervisors. In addition to Vocabulary and Numbers, Letters and Words measures, the children also participated in the speech ar ticulation portion of the K-SEALS. On a day separate from the screenings, classroom observations were performed using the ELLCO Classroom Observation scale. All observations were completed within 2-3 weeks of the student screenings. Structured teacher in terviews were conducted using the ELLCO toolkit and additional information was collected from teachers via a brief teacher survey. All classroom observations were conducted by the lead investigator; a licensed and
53 nationally certified speech-language pathol ogist with over 10 years experience in evaluating language environments. A graduate a ssistant and student in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders comple ted observations in 5 of the selected classrooms to check reliability of the obtained ELLCO measures. The graduate assistant received 9 hours of training on use of th e ELLCO and completed 2 practice observations prior to the beginning of the study. The gra duate assistant had already successfully completed coursework that focused on child la nguage, learning disabilities, and symbolic development. The lead investigator collected all teacher survey and interview data. He also completed 2 practice observations before beginning actual data collection using the ELLCO. Parent questionnaires were sent home with screening permission forms and returned by the Center Directors to the sc reening coordinator on campus. Data Analysis Data were collected that iden tified the early chil dhood center, classroom teachers, childrens birth dates, gender language background, and names. Childrens names were used to link data points but were kept confidential. Demographic information was analyzed informally and descriptive statis tics were generated. De scriptive statistics included means, standard deviations, and ra nges for all measures used. All statistical analyses were tested at th e .05 level of significance. Multiple regression analyses were used to test the hypotheses made in this study. Data analysis with regard to the research hypotheses could have been approached in two different ways. In order to determine the contributions of inde pendent variables in explaining variance in dependent variables, partial correlations could be examined. Second, regression equations could be generated to determine predictability of outcomes.
54 Both of these approaches were taken in orde r to provide different perspectives and to check for consistency. Standard scores were used in analyzing student performance data because they are universally understood by pr ofessionals and allow for cross-comparison, with age already accounted for. Additionally, no statistically significant differences in effects were expected based on age differen ces. The dependent variables in this study were Vocabulary (VOC) scores and Numbers, Letters and Words (NLW) scores. The independent variables were home literacy environment (HLE) and classroom languageliteracy environment (CLE). Child rens socioeconomic indices, that is, parent education level, and teacher education le vel were used as control variables. Items 1-3 from the Brief Teacher Survey were assigned weights of 1 to 5 a nd totaled to determine relationships between teacher variables and the other vari ables examined in this study. A correlation analysis and reliability table were completed to reveal internal consistency and explain the use of a single score for teacher education level. A correlation analysis and reliability table were also completed for the parent que stionnaire. Internal c onsistency of both of these measures (teacher education level and home literacy environment) was estimated using Cronbachs alpha. Analysis of the teacher survey results also served as a reliability check for classroom observation findings. As in previous research, total weighted HLQ scores were used in multiple regression analyses. Table 1 indicates specific statistical methods and variables involve d in testing each of th e hypotheses in this study.
55 Table 1 Variables and Statistical Procedur es Associated with Hypotheses Hypothesis Independent Variables Dependent Variable Tests 1 home literacy environment classroom literacy environment n/a linear regression (r) 2 home literacy environment parent education level teacher education level VOC multiple regression squared semipartial correlation or b F-test t-test 3 home literacy environment parent education level teacher education level NLW multiple regression squared semipartial correlation or b F-test t-test 4 classroom literacy environment parent education level teacher education level VOC multiple regression squared semipartial correlation or b F-test t-test 5 classroom literacy environment parent education level teacher education level NLW multiple regression squared semipartial correlation or b F-test t-test 6 classroom literacy environment parent education level teacher education level home literacy environment VOC multiple regression squared semipartial correlation or b 7 classroom literacy environment parent education level teacher education level home literacy environment NLW multiple regression squared semipartial correlation or b
56 Chapter Four Results In order to assess the relationships am ong home literacy environments, classroom language-literacy environments, and student performance on measures of vocabulary and early literacy skills, data from five church -affiliated and nine nonchurch affiliated early childhood classrooms were collected and examined. A total of 144 preschool and kindergarten students participated in the sp eech-language and literacy screenings. Based upon established exclusion criteria for this study, 43 students in all were removed from the sample. Of the 43 students excluded, 22 students were removed due to multilingual backgrounds. One student failed the hearing scr eening and was also reported to reside in a bilingual home environment. Two students with multilingual backgrounds had not been enrolled in the classroom of interest for at least 6 months. Thirteen children were excluded from the study because they did not pass the hearing screening on the day of testing. One additional student did not meet the 6-month minimum classroom enrollment requirement and one child was removed based on a diagnosis of selective mutism. Three students were removed from the data set beca use parent HLE surveys were not completed via hard copy or telephone interview. One parent survey was returned by fax; eight were completed entirely by telephone; and four surveys were complete d partially by telephone due to missing or
57 ambiguous responses. The overall parent survey response rate for this study was 88% for hard copy responses and 97% when fax and telephone surveys were included. After removing 43 participants, one-hundr ed and one (101) students, 56 (55.4%) males and 45 (44.6%) females remained in the data set for an alysis. The children averaged 57.83 (SD = 5.77) months of age a nd ranged from 48 months to 69 months old. Descriptive statistics were calculated to a ssess the nature of the distributions obtained (Table 2). With reference to multiple regr ession analyses, the assumptions of normality, multicollinearity, and constant variance were considered. Data were screened for skewness, or symmetry of distribution, and kurto sis. Data screenings indicated that the normality assumption did not appear to be violated. Residuals were plotted versus predicted values and the assumptions of linearity and constant variance were met. Correlations among the vari ables in this study are provided in Table 3. Table 2 Means and Standard Deviations of Variables Variable M SD Min Max HLE 16.90 2.63 11 25 CLE 54.15 12.00 30 68 PEL 3.90 0.90 2 5 TEL 10.63 2.07 6 13 VOC 105.59 10.91 78 145 NLW 108.92 10.86 74 135 Note. HLE = home literacy environment; CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher education level; VOC = Vocabulary; NLW = Numbers, Letters and Words. n = 101.
58 Table 3 Correlations among Variables in this Study HLE CLE PEL TEL VOC NLW HLE -.03 .24* .01 .28** .21* CLE ---.01 .004 .05 -.18 PEL ---.11 .02 .09 TEL ----.07 .14 VOC -----.39** Note HLE = home literacy environment; CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher education level; VOC = Vocabulary; NLW = Numbers, Letters and Words. n = 101, p < .05, ** p < .01.
59 Parent Education Level Parent education level (PEL) data were collected as part of the parent questionnaire. Contrary to exp ectations, results for this survey item indicated that the obtained sample consisted mainly of middleto upper-middle class students with welleducated parents (M = 3.9, SD = .9). Of 101 parents, 29% reported having a Masters degree or higher; 40% of the parents reporte d having four years of college experience. Survey findings indicated that 25% of the parents had two years of college or other postsecondary schooling, and 6% reported high school or GED achievement. Zero respondents indicated junior high/middle school as the highest e ducational level attained. Teacher Surveys Teacher surveys were obtained and analyzed for all 14 female teachers who participated in this study. Sc ores from items one (1) through three (3) measured years of education, general continuing education hours, and literacy-focused continuing education hours earned by teachers over the past two year s. Collectively, these three items formed the TEL composite score. Table 4 displays the number and percentage of teacher responses by response choice for item one of the TEL survey. As seen in Table 4, many of the teachers in this sample reported taking at least some college courses. Five out of 14 teachers had 4 or more years of college. A nother 5 teachers reported having 1 or 2 years of college, while the remainder graduated from high school. Nine out of 14, that is, 64% of the te achers in this sample reported having attended greater than 20 hours of continui ng education in the past 24 months. The remaining 5 teachers (36%) reported attending 16 to 20 hours of continuing education in the same time period. These re sults suggested substantia l amounts of ongoing training.
60 Table 4 Classroom Teachers Years of Education Survey Choices n % of Teachers High school graduate 2 14.3 High school plus a few college courses 2 14.3 1 year of college or other pos tsecondary schooling 2 14.3 2 years of college or other postsecondary schooling 3 21.4 4 years of college or more 5 35.7 Note. n = 14 Interestingly, non-significant statistical co rrelations were noted between teachers years of education, r = .42, p < .14 and CLE, and general c ontinuing education hours, r = .098, p < .739 and CLE. Composite TEL scores were not related to CLE, r = -.05, p < .871. An inverse relationship between hours of li teracy-oriented continuing education and CLE, r = -.56, p < .036 was identified. However, conclusions derived from these results were limited based on a small number of cla ssrooms in this study. Table 5 indicates the number of continuing educati on hours that focused specifica lly on literacy development. Although teachers indicated freque nt involvement in professional development activities, self-reported teaching practices did not s uggest a balanced approach to literacy. Consistent with classroom obs ervations, teachers reported a heavier emphasis on reading to children than providing opportunities for writing in the classroom (Tables 6 and 7).
61 Table 5 Continuing Education Hours that Focused on Literacy Survey Choices n Percentage of Teachers 0 to 5 hours 3 21.4 6 to 10 hours 3 21.4 11 to 15 hours 4 28.6 16 to 20 hours 2 14.3 More than 20 hours 2 14.3 Note n = 14 Table 6 displays teacher reports regardi ng the number of times they read to children per week in the classroom. Table 7 displays percentages of teacher responses regarding the number of times children participate in wr iting activities per week. Table 6 Frequency of Teacher Reading to Children Survey Choices n Percentage of Teachers Not at all 0 0 1 to 3 times per week 1 7.1 4 to 6 times per week 0 0 7 to 9 times per week 7 50.0 More than 10 times per week 6 42.9 Note n = 14
62 Table 7 Frequency of Classroom Writing Activities Survey Choices n Percentage of Teachers Not at all 1 7.1 1 to 3 times per week 4 28.6 4 to 6 times per week 4 28.6 7 to 9 times per week 4 28.6 More than 10 times per week 1 7.1 Note n = 14 An open-ended teacher survey item as ked participants to state where they received their education. Nine out of 14 teachers had attended major four-year universities, while 5 of the teachers received their training solely from high schools, community colleges, or vocational/technica l schools. Responses were examined for emergent trends and/or relationshi ps connected to the present study. Classroom Language-Literacy Measures Examination of the ELLCO Classroom Observ ation data did reveal a distinctive pattern. The 7 teachers who received the highe st classroom language-literacy scores had all attended major four-year universities. These teachers we re responsible for creating classroom environments with mean area sc ores that were consistent with the proficientto-exemplary range on the ELLCO (M = 4.0 5.0). Obtained ELLCO Classroom Observation scores for these teachers ranged fr om 56 to 68 out of 70 possible points or a mean of 4.0 to 4.86. Figure 1 displays the mean CLE area scores for each classroom.
63 14 Classrooms Observed Mean CLE Scores 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0 Limited Basic Proficient-Exemplary 2.14 2.71 2.79 2.86 3.43 3.57 3.71 4.00 4.14 4.71 4.71 4.71 4.86 4.86 Figure 1. Mean classroom language -literacy environment (CLE) scores for limited (M = 2.0 2.9), basic (M = 3.0 3.9), and proficie nt-to-exemplary (M = 4.0 5.0) classrooms.
64 Three of the 14 classrooms observed received mean area scores that were consistent with basic supports for language and literacy development (M = 3.0 3.9). Basic classrooms in this study had total scores ranging from 48 to 52 or a mean of 3.43 to 3.71. The remaining 4 classrooms received CLE ratings that suggested limited (M = 2.0 2.9) opportunities overall for language and li teracy learning (CLE = 30 to 40, M = 2.14 2.86). Thus, half of the classrooms observed dur ing this investigation exhibited less-thanproficient renderings of literacy-ric h learning environmen ts (Figure 1). CLE total scores were calculated as a co mposite of 14 individual area scores on the ELLCO Classroom Observation instrument Table 8 presents the CLE individual areas scores ranked by highest (CLE = 68) to lowest (C LE = 30) CLE total scores. ELLCO Classroom Observation area scores we re assigned using a rubric with a fivepoint scale (1 = deficient, 2 = limited, 3 = basic, 4 = proficient, 5 = exemplary). Area score columns one through 14 in Table 8 co rrespond to the following domains assessed: 1) Organization of the Classroom, 2) Contents of the Classroom, 3) Presence and Use of Technology, 4) Opportunities fo r Child Choice and Initiative 5) Classroom Management Strategies, 6) Classroom Climate, 7) Oral La nguage Facilitation, 8) Presence of Books, 9) Approaches to Book Reading, 10) Approaches to Childrens Writing, 11) Approaches to Curriculum Integration, 12) Recognizing Diversity in the Classroom, 13) Facilitating Home Support for Literacy, and 14) Approaches to Assessment. Table 9 summarizes the number of classrooms with particular CLE scores/categories (e.g., exemplary, basic, defi cient) for each area. Recall that scores of 2 and 4 are seldom used according to scoring procedures outlined in the ELLCO manual.
65 Table 8 Language-Literacy Environment Scores by Classroom and Domain Note. CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; Co lumns: 1 = Organization of the Classroom, 2 = Contents of the Classroom, 3 = Presence and Use of Technology, 4 = Opportunities for Child Choice and Initiative, 5 = Classroom Management Strategies, 6 = Classroom Climate, 7 = Oral Language Facilitation, 8 = Presence of Books, 9 = Approaches to Book Reading, 10 = Approaches to Childrens Writing, 11 = Approaches to Curriculum Integration, 12 = Recognizing Diversity in the Classroom, 13 = Facilitating Home Support for Literacy, and 14 = Approaches to Assessment. n = 14. CLE Area Scores 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Class 1 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 2 5 5 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 6 5 5 5 3 5 3 5 5 3 5 1 3 5 5 7 1 3 5 3 5 5 5 5 5 3 3 5 5 3 8 5 3 1 3 5 3 3 5 5 3 5 5 3 3 9 1 3 5 3 3 3 3 5 5 3 3 5 5 3 10 5 3 3 5 5 5 3 3 3 3 1 3 3 3 11 5 3 1 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 1 5 3 1 12 5 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 3 1 3 3 1 13 1 3 1 3 3 3 3 5 3 3 1 3 3 3 14 1 3 1 1 1 1 3 5 3 3 1 3 3 1
66 Table 9 Number of Classrooms with Exemplary, Profic ient, Basic, Limited, or Deficient Ratings Area Exemplary Proficient Basic Limited Deficient 1. Organization 10 0 0 0 4 2. Contents 6 0 8 0 0 3. Technology 5 0 5 0 4 4. Child Choice 6 0 7 0 1 5. Management 9 0 4 0 1 6. Climate 7 0 6 0 1 7. Oral Language 7 0 7 0 0 8. Book Presence 11 0 3 0 0 9. Book Reading 8 0 5 1 0 10. Writing 5 0 9 0 0 11. Integration 2 0 6 0 6 12. Diversity 9 0 5 0 0 13. Home Support 8 0 6 0 0 14. Assessment 6 0 5 0 3 Note. n = 14
67 Organization of the classroom. This item assesses the classroom furnishings and traffic flow as well as activities and mate rials available to ch ildren. Ten out of 14 classrooms received a rating of 5 (i.e., exempl ary) for organization of the classroom. Four classrooms were rated as deficient in this area and received a score of 1. Contents of the classroom. This item evaluates the content of materials and classroom displays. Six classrooms were rated as exemplary in terms of their contents. The eight classrooms with the lowest CLE tota l scores received a score of 3 indicating basic contents and organization of materials. Presence and use of technology. Technology in the classroom was assessed by examining use of audiotape recorders, camer as, overhead projectors, computers, and so on. Five classrooms exhibited exemplary pres ence and use of technology. Basic use (area score = 3) of technology was observed in five other classrooms. Four classrooms displayed deficient presen ce and use of technology. Opportunities for child choice and initiative. Evidence for this item can include posted or observed schedules, routines, a nd the ways in which teachers utilize the classroom and materials. Ex emplary opportunities for child choice and initiative were observed in 6 of the 14 classrooms. Seven cla ssroom settings were ra ted as basic and one was rated as deficient in this area. Thus, a large proportion of the classrooms in this sample did not have strong evidence of child-centered learning opportunities. Classroom management strategies. This item was evaluated by observing interactions between teachers and students, rules and routines, as well as conflict resolution strategies implemented. Classroom management strategies were rated as
68 exemplary in nine cases. Four classrooms we re characterized by basic use of classroom management techniques. On e classroom was rated as deficient in this area. Classroom climate. Classroom climate was assessed by noting interactions between teachers and students, between st udents and other students, the tone of conversations, and equality of treatment. On e-half of the classrooms evaluated had exemplary classroom climates that clearly respected individual children and their contributions to the classroom. The classroom climate was judged to be basic in six classrooms and deficient in one case. Oral language facilitation. Oral language activities were evaluated based on teacher-student interactions lessons and activities, c onversations, and vocabulary expansion. Assessment of oral language e nvironments indicated that the top seven classrooms in terms of CLE total scores (i.e., proficient-to-exemplary classrooms) displayed exemplary oral language facilita tion. Classrooms 8 14 (i.e., classrooms ranked as basic or limited overall) displayed basic faci litation of oral language (area scores = 3). One-half, that is, 7 of the classrooms in this study, lacked strong supports for oral language development. Presence of books. This item was assessed by examining the presence, setting, condition, and content of books. The majority of classrooms in this study (11) received a score of 5, or a rating of exemplary, for pr esence of books in the cl assroom. Only three classrooms received lower ratings and thes e reflected a basic presence of books. Classroom teachers generally appeared to understand the value of providing numerous opportunities for book exploration and hi gh-quality childrens literature.
69Approaches to book reading. Book reading activities were evaluated by observing various reading events, settings, and discus sions. Eight classrooms received exemplary ratings for approaches to book reading. Five classrooms displayed basic approaches to book reading and one classroom was found to be limited with regard to book reading events (area score = 2). Classrooms in this st udy typically offered st udents at least basic experiences with books and book-related discussions. Approaches to childrens writing. This item focuses on evidence of writing materials and opportunities for students and teac hers to participate in writing activities. Only 5 classrooms were rated as exemplar y based upon their approaches to childrens writing. Nine of the 14 classrooms exhibited ba sic approaches to writing. These results were consistent with teacher survey findings that indicated there were fewer opportunities for writing than for reading activities. Clearly a lack of writing opportunities for students and rare modeling of writing by teachers repres ented gaps in the lite racy curriculum for a large proportion of the classrooms observed. Approaches to curriculum integration. Curriculum integra tion includes ongoing blending of curriculum and activ ities, language and literacy across content areas, and the use of themes to unify learning. Scores in this area were consistently low across the sample. Just 2 of 14 classrooms displayed st rong evidence of an integrated curriculum and received exemplary ratings. Basic rati ngs were assigned to 6 classrooms and deficient ratings were assigned to 6 classr ooms. Thus, the overwhelming majority of classrooms showed less-than-proficient integra tion of information and skills, and nearly one-half of the classrooms displayed mi nimal evidence of meaningful thematic approaches to language and literacy.
70 Recognizing diversity in the classroom. Diversity recognition was evaluated by observing ongoing activities interactions, and curricula with refe rence to childrens individual backgrounds, interests, homes, and communities. Nine classrooms were exemplary at recognizing dive rsity in the classroom. Five classrooms exhibited some basic recognition of diverse individu al, family, and cultural backgrounds. Facilitating home support for literacy. Classroom support of home literacy activities was assessed by examining the use of homework, newsletters, and other homeschool contact methods. Exemplary facilita tion of home support for literacy was identified in eight classroo ms. Six classrooms received basi c scores in this area. The relationship between classroom supports a nd home literacy environments was also addressed by testing Hypothesis 1. Approaches to assessment. This item was evaluated by observing opportunities for individual intera ctions, use of varied assessment techniques, and adjustment of instruction to individual st udents. Six classrooms displaye d exemplary approaches to assessment. Five classrooms were rated as ba sic and three were deficient in this domain. These results suggested that a ssessments of language and lite racy were often minimal in depth, individualization, and variety. Home Literacy Surveys Responses for each item on the home lite racy environment (HLE) questionnaire were analyzed. Frequencies of parent responses for multiple-choice (a through e) questions were calculated and listed in fre quency tables (Tables 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14). Table 10 describes the distribution of respons es for item number one on the survey. A
71 high percentage of parents (84%) reported that they started re ading to their children when they were 6 months old. Frequenc y of parent reading is presente d in Table 11. Table 10 Age when Parents Began Reading to Child Survey Choices Number of Parents 6 months 84 1 year 10 18 months 4 2 years 3 3 years or older 0 Note n = 101 Table 11 Frequency of Parent Reading to Child Survey Choices Number of Parents Not at all 2 1 to 3 times per week 34 4 to 6 times per week 29 7 to 9 times per week 24 More than 10 times per week 12 Note n = 101 The frequency with which another caregive r read to the child was the subject of the third item. Survey responses for this item are presented in Table 12.
72 Table 12 Frequency of Caregiver Reading to Child Survey Choices Number of Parents Not at all 10 1 to 3 times per week 29 4 to 6 times per week 46 7 to 9 times per week 8 More than 10 times per week 8 Note n = 101 Table 13 displays the results obtained fr om the fourth survey item. More than two-thirds of the parents surveyed (68%) re ported having more than 50 childrens books at home. Zero parents reported owning less than 11 childrens books. Table 13 Number of Childrens Books at Home Survey Choices Number of Parents 1 to 10 0 11 to 20 4 21 to 30 6 31 to 50 23 More than 50 68 Note n = 101
73 Table 14 Frequency of Child Visits to the Public Library Survey Choices Number of Parents Not at all 47 1 time per month 35 2 to 4 times per month 16 5 to 10 times per month 2 More than 10 times per month 1 Note n = 101 Nearly one-half (47%) of the parent respons es indicated that th eir children did not visit the public library at all. It should be not ed that 4 parents did i ndicate that they visit a local bookstore instead. Thirty-f ive percent (35%) re ported that their children visit the public library once per month, while 16% id entified 2-4 times per month as their response. Of 101 parents, 2 responded that they visit the library 5 to 10 times per month and 1 response indicated more than 10 times per month. Student Test Scores Results from the Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills (KSEALS) were organized into descriptive categories according to test guidelines. Although these categories range from a lower extreme (SS = 69 and below) to an upper extreme (SS = 130 and higher), none of the stude nts in this sample received a standard score below 70. Hence, the lower extreme cate gory was not needed to explain scores. The obtained distribution of Vocabulary (VOC) scores is i llustrated in Table 15.
74 Table 15 Student Vocabulary Scores by Descriptive Category Descriptive Category SS Range Number of Students Well below average 70-79 1 Below average 80-89 5 Average 90-109 59 Above average 110-119 29 Well above average 120-129 6 Upper extreme 130+ 1 Note See Table 2 for mean, standard deviation, and range. n = 101. More students achieved scor es that were well abov e average or in the upper extreme on NLW compared to VOC. NLW results are provided in Table 16. Table 16 Student Numbers, Letters and Words Scores by Descriptive Category Descriptive Category SS Range Number of Students Well below average 70-79 1 Below average 80-89 2 Average 90-109 54 Above average 110-119 27 Well above average 120-129 13 Upper extreme 130+ 4 Note See Table 2 for mean, standard deviation, and range. n = 101.
75Hypothesis 1 The first research hypothesis stated that a modest statistical re lationship (r = .20 to .45) would exist between CLE and HLE sc ores. Linear regression analyses were completed to find correlations between indi vidual items on the HLE measure (HLE 1 to HLE 5) and CLE ratings. The relationship be tween the HLE composite scores and CLE was also assessed. Table 17 reveals that HLE 5 was significantly related to CLE, r (97) = .20, p < .05. HLE 5 measured the frequency of ch ild visits to the public library. As HLE 5 scores increased, CLE scores increased. No other correlations were statistically significant. This hypothesis is partially accepted. Table 17 Correlations between HLE Subscores and CLE HLE CLE HLE .03 HLE 1 -.01 HLE 2 .00 HLE 3 -.03 HLE 4 -.07 HLE 5 .20* Note HLE = home literacy environment; CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; HLE 1-5 = individual home literacy survey items. n = 101; p < .05.
76Hypothesis 2 The second research hypothesis stated that a statistically significant relationship would exist between VOC (as the criterion) and HLE (as the predictor), above and beyond parent and teacher education levels. Mu ltiple regression models were formulated to test this hypothesis. The difference in the amount of variance accounted for by Model 1 (R2 = .5%) and Model 2 (R2 = 8.6%) revealed the unique contribution of HLE in explaining variance in VOC scores. Table 18 shows that home literacy environment (HLE) was a significant predic tor, above and beyond educa tion level, accounting for an additional 8.1% of the variance in Vocabul ary (VOC) scores. Parent education level (PEL) was not related to vocabulary scor es, possibly because there was not enough variability in PEL to show a pattern relative to student performance. Partial correlations between HLE and VOC, controlling for parent an d teacher education levels, resulted in a statistically significant correlation, r (97) = .29, p < .01 (Table 19). This correlation indicated that as home literacy environmen t scores (HLE) increased, Vocabulary (VOC) scores increased. This hypothesis is accepted. Table 19 displays the partial correlations among CLE, HLE, VOC, and NLW above and beyond parent educati on level (PEL) and teacher education level (TEL).
77 Table 18 Regression on VOC by HLE, Controlling for Education Model Predictor B SE Beta t Sig. 1 PEL .127 1.229 .010 .103 .918 TEL .359 .534 .068 .673 .503 2 PEL -.721 1.219 -.059 -.591 .556 TEL .389 .514 .074 .757 .451 HLE 1.214 .414 .293 2.934 .004 Note HLE = home literacy environment; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher education level; VOC = Vocabul ary. Model 1, F (2, 98) = .24, ns (R2 = 0.5%). Model 2, F (3, 97) = 3.04, p < .05 (R2 = 8.6%). Table 19 Correlations among CLE, HLE, VOC, and NLW, Controlling for Parent and Teacher Education Levels CLE VOC NLW HLE .03 .29** .20* CLE -.05 -.18 VOC -.38*** Note HLE = home literacy environment; CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; VOC = Vocabulary; NLW = Numbers, Letters and Words. n = 97. p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.
78Hypothesis 3 The third research hypothesis stated that a statistically significant relationship would exist between NLW (as the criterion) and HLE (as the predictor), above and beyond parent and teacher education levels. Mu ltiple regression models were formulated to test this hypothesis. The difference in the amount of variance accounted for by Model 1 (R2 = 2.6%) and Model 2 (R2 = 6.5%) revealed the unique contribution of HLE in explaining variance in NLW scores. Home lite racy environment (HLE) accounted for an additional 3.9% of the variance in NLW scor es above and beyond education level. Table 20 shows that HLE was statistically signifi cant in the model. The correlation between HLE and NLW, controlling for parent and teacher education levels, resulted in a statistically significant correlation, r (97) = .20, p < .05 (Table 19). This correlation indicated that as HLE increas ed, NLW scores increased. This hypothesis is accepted. Table 20 Regression on NLW by HLE, Controlling for Education Model Predictor B SE Beta t Sig. 1 PEL .864 1.211 .072 .714 .477 TEL .712 .526 .136 1.354 .179 2 PEL .279 1.227 .023 .227 .821 TEL .732 .518 .140 1.414 .161 HLE .839 .417 .203 2.013 .047 Note HLE = home literacy environmen t; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher education level; NLW = Number s, Letters and Words. Model 1, F (2, 98) = 1.23, ns (R2 = 2.6%). Model 2, F (3, 97) = 2.24, ns (R2 = 6.5%).
79Hypothesis 4 The fourth research hypothesis stated that a statistically significant relationship would exist between VOC (as the criterion) and classroom language-literacy environment (CLE) (as the predictor), above and beyond pare nt and teacher educat ion levels. Table 21 reveals that CLE was not a significant pred ictor, beyond education level, accounting for an additional 0.2% of the va riance in VOC scores. The pa rtial correlation between CLE and VOC, controlling for parent and teach er education levels resulted in a nonsignificant correlation, r (97) = .05, ns (Table 19). This hypothesis is rejected. Table 21 Regression on VOC by CLE, Controlling for Education Model Predictor B SE Beta t Sig. 1 PEL .127 1.229 .010 .103 .918 TEL .359 .534 .068 .673 .503 2 PEL .134 1.234 .011 .109 .914 TEL .358 .536 .068 .668 .506 CLE .044 .092 .048 .477 .635 Note CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher educatio n level; VOC = Vocabulary. Model 1, F (2, 98) = .24, ns (R2 = 0.5%). Model 2, F (3, 97) = .24, ns (R2 = 0.7%).
80Hypothesis 5 The fifth research hypothesis stated that a statistically significant relationship would exist between NLW (as the criterion) and CLE (as the predictor), above and beyond parent and teacher education leve ls. Table 22 shows that CLE was not a significant predictor, beyond education level, accounting for an addi tional 3.2% of the variance in NLW scores. The partial correla tion between NLW and CLE, controlling for parent and teacher education levels, resu lted in a non-signifi cant correlation, r (97) = .18, ns (Table 19). This hypothesis is rejected. Table 22 Regression on NLW by CLE, Controlling for Education Model Predictor B SE Beta t Sig. 1 PEL .864 1.211 .072 .714 .477 TEL .712 .526 .136 1.354 .179 2 PEL .838 1.196 .069 .700 .485 TEL .717 .520 .137 1.380 .171 CLE -.163 .089 -.180 -1.827 .071 Note CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher education level; NLW = Numbers, Letters and Words. Model 1, F (2, 98) = 1.30, ns (R2 = 2.6%). Model 2, F (3, 97) = 2.00, ns (R2 = 5.8%).
81Hypothesis 6 The sixth research hypothesis stated that a statistically significant relationship would exist between VOC (as the criterion) and CLE (as the predictor), above and beyond parent and teacher education levels and HLE scores. Multiple regression models were formulated to test this hypothesis. The difference in the amount of variance accounted for by Model 1 (R2 = 8.6%) and Model 2 (R2 = 8.8%) revealed the unique contribution of CLE in explaining variance in VOC scores. Table 23 reveals that CLE was not a significant predictor, beyond e ducation level and HLE, accounting for an additional 0.2% of the variance in VO C scores. This hypothesis is rejected. Table 23 Regression on VOC by CLE, C ontrolling for Education and HLE Model Predictor B SE Beta t Sig. 1 PEL -.721 1.219 -.059 -.591 .556 TEL .389 .514 .074 .757 .451 HLE 1.214 .414 .293 2.934 .004 2 PEL -.711 1.224 -.059 -.581 .563 TEL .388 .517 .074 .751 .455 HLE 1.209 .416 .292 2.906 .005 CLE .035 .089 .039 .397 .692 Note HLE = home literacy environment; CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher education level; VOC = Vocabulary. Model 1, F (3, 97) = 3.04, p < .05 (R2 = 8.6%). Model 2, F (4, 96) = 2.30, ns (R2 = 8.8%).
82Hypothesis 7 The seventh research hypothesi s stated that a statistically relationship would exist between NLW (as the criterion) and CLE (as the predictor) above and beyond parent and teacher education levels and HLE. Multiple re gression models were formulated to test this hypothesis. The difference in the amount of variance accounted for by Model 1 (R2 = 6.5%) and Model 2 (R2 = 10.0%) revealed the unique c ontribution of CLE in explaining variance in NLW scores. Table 24 shows that CLE was not a significant predictor, beyond education level and HLE, accounting for an additional 3.5% of the variance in NLW scores. This hypothesis is rejected. Table 24 Regression on NLW by CLE, C ontrolling for Education and HLE Model Predictor B SE Beta t Sig. 1 PEL .279 1.227 .023 .227 .821 TEL .732 .518 .140 1.414 .161 HLE .839 .417 .203 2.013 .047 2 PEL .233 1.210 .019 .192 .848 TEL .738 .511 .141 1.446 .151 HLE .865 .411 .210 2.104 .038 CLE -.169 .088 -.187 -1.928 .057 Note HLE = home literacy environment; CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; PEL = parent education level; TEL = teacher education level; NLW = Numbers, Letters and Words. Model 1, F (3, 97) = 2.24, ns (R2 = 6.5%). Model 2, F (4, 96) = 2.66, p < .05 (R2 = 10.0%).
83Post Hoc Analyses In addition to descriptiv e statistics and hypothesis te sting, several post hoc procedures were conducted. A between group t-test was performed on classroom language-literacy (CLE) scores by age group. A comparison was made between classrooms serving younger children (under 60 months of age) and classrooms serving older children (60 months and older). The Levene test of equality was not significant suggesting that variability in each group wa s about equal. There was a statistically significant difference by group, t (12) = 4.75, p < .001. Children in 4to 5-year-old classrooms (M = 60.67, SD = 7.87) had statistic ally significantly higher CLE scores than children in 3to 4-year-old classrooms (M = 49.80, SD = 7.89). The seven classrooms categorized as proficient-toexemplary all served 4to 5-year-olds. Conversely, classroom language-literacy environments were statistically poorer in classrooms containing younger children. The four bottom-ra nked (i.e., limited) cl assrooms all served children who were under 5 year s of age (Figure 1). Childre n in lower aged groupings were afforded fewer resources and fewe r opportunities for language and literacy development (See Classroom Characteristic s: Limited classrooms section in Chapter 5). Reliability analyses were conducted for the measures in this research project and are displayed in Table 25. The ELLCO Cla ssroom Observation instrument used to measure CLE produced a Cronbachs alpha reli ability of .92. Analysis of internal consistency for the home literacy environmen t (HLE) instrument produced a Cronbachs alpha reliability rating of .53 while analysis of the teacher education level (TEL) measure revealed a Cronbachs alpha reliability rati ng of -.18. Correlations of .4 are often considered moderate and a value of .7 may be considered high. Alpha coefficients of .8 to
84 .9 are desirable (Anastasi, 1988). Results of th e obtained alpha reliab ility statistics may be a function of sample si ze and the number of items included on the measure. Table 25 Alpha Reliability for CLE, HLE, and TEL Measures Cronbachs alpha CLE .92* HLE .53** TEL -.18*** Note HLE = home literacy environment; CLE = classroom language-literacy environment; TEL = teacher education level. n (of items);*n = 14, **n = 5, ***n = 3. Upon further reflection, the internal consistency measure was judged to be inadequate for assessing reliability of th e TEL survey. Negative inter-item correlations on the TEL questionnaire revealed dissimilar re sults. In retrospect, the TEL measure functioned as a composite variable. Negativ e correlations were apparent between TEL 1 and TEL 3 as well as TEL 2 and TEL 3. A correlation matrix is provided in Table 26 to display the relationships between items on the teacher survey. Further, because reliability of the TEL survey was an issue, alterna tive methods of analyzing the data were considered. Many educational re search studies have measured teacher education level strictly in terms of years of education. Therefore, the multiple regression analyses in this study were repeated using the first survey item, TEL 1 (i.e., a measure of years of
85 schooling) instead of the TEL composite score. Data analysis with TEL 1 did not produce substantive changes in the conclusions of th is study. The only notable change was an increase in the probability value for HLE fr om .047 to .057 with Hypothesis 3. Table 26 Correlations among TEL 1, TEL 2, and TEL 3 TEL 1 TEL 2 TEL 3 TEL 1 -.26 -.21 TEL 2 ---.01 Note TEL 1 = teacher education level item 1 (years of education); TEL 2 = teacher education leve l item 2 (hours of general continuing education); TEL 3 = teacher education leve l item 3 (hours of literacy-related continuing education). Reliability between observers for CLE measures was also assessed based upon five separate classroom observations. Inte r-rater reliability on the ELLCO ranged from 89% to 100% with a mean agreement of 97% overall. Stepwise regression analyses were conducted to determin e if any of the individual items on the home literacy environment (HLE) survey accounted for significant variance in VOC or NLW scores. Although the HLE com posite score was the strongest predictor (p < .004) of Vocabulary (VOC), the rela tionship between HLE 4 and VOC was also found to be statistically si gnificant, r (97) = .26, p < .01. As the number of childrens books in the home increased, Vocabulary scores increased. The other relationships tested
86 were found to be statistically non-significant. The relati onship between HLE 4 and NLW was not statistically significant at the .05 level but may be considered a trend, r (97) = .2, p < .051. In addition, data regarding the financial co sts to parents were gathered for each of the early childhood centers in this study. Enro llment costs ranged from $2.82 per hour to $11.00 per hour. Assessment of cost and clas sroom quality variables indicated that cost did not necessarily correspond to quality, r = -.002, p < .996, ns. In fact, substantial differences in quality often varied from cla ssroom to classroom within centers. As an example, one the of less expensive centers in this study ($3.20 per hour) housed four classrooms that ranged from limited (CLE = 2.14; CLE = 2.71) to basic (CLE = 3.57) to proficient/exemplary (CLE = 4. 0) in quality. These findings posed questions about parent knowledge and/or information ne eded to select high-quality early learning programs at a reasonable cost.
87 Chapter Five Discussion The present study explored relations hips among preschool and kindergarten childrens early lexical skills, literacy skills, and their learning environments at home and at school. Data analyses provi ded information for testing the stated hypotheses as well as for describing family and classroom supports for language-literacy development. Interpretation of results in cluding post hoc analyses, implications of the study, and suggestions for future research are presented in this chapter. Findings Associated with Hypotheses Hypothesis 1. Hypothesis 1 stated that there would be a modest statistical relationship (r = .20 to .45) between cla ssroom language-literacy environment (CLE) scores and home literacy environment (HLE) scores. Finding a statistically significant relationship between these two va riables would be plausible, given the fact that parents exercise choice in selecting early child care and education for their preschool and kindergarten children. Even though choices may be limited by cost or location factors, selection of early childhood pr ograms may be linked to what parents value in child care (e.g., literacy, arts, play). It was expected th at, to some degree, similarities would exist between the quality of childrens home litera cy environments and the quality of their classroom literacy environments.
88 A modest statistically significant relations hip was identified between frequency of childrens visits to the public library and childrens classroom qua lity ratings. Several interpretations of this finding are possible. This result may be a product of how focused parents were on seeking literacy experiences for their children outside of the home. It is possible that parents who brought their children to the public library more frequently were also more likely to shop for early childhood classrooms that had strong literacy curricula. In other words, the extent to whic h parents sought library literacy experiences for their children may have corresponded with the extent to which they looked for (and found) school literacy experiences for their children. This e xplanation is appealing since the only item on the home literacy survey that correlated significantly with classroom quality was the one that addressed literacy activities outside the home (i.e., library visits). Home literacy composite scores and othe r individual item scores dealing with at home experiences did not relate si gnificantly to CLE. Active pursuit of literacy experiences away from home and in the community might re flect parents beliefs about the value of literacy, their knowledge of literacy environments, and an explicit press for literacy achievement. It is also possible that classroom quality ratings were indicative of the degree to which classroom teachers encouraged parents to utilize the public library. Higher quality early childhood settings might have been more successful than lower rated classrooms in promoting family trips to the library. Conve rsely, lower quality classrooms and their staff may have been less successful at diversif ying parent-child literacy activities in the community. However, this explanation may be vi ewed as less appealing than the first in light of recent research c onducted in central Florida. Loeb, Fuller, Kagan and Carrol
89 (2004) found that when parent choices regarding child care were more restricted, there was no relationship between classroom quality and family library visits. A third explanation relates to age groupings of the children. Since the lower quality classrooms in this study tended to contain younger children (i.e., 3to 4-yearolds), age may have played a role in pare nts decisions about library visits. Perhaps parent and teacher beliefs about the appr opriateness of bringing younger children to the library influenced the frequency of family visits to the library. This view would be consistent with additional findings to be disc ussed later in this chapter. These findings indicated that teachers underestimated the langu age and literacy abilities of children in 3to 4-year-old classrooms. Of course, practical considerations about parent expectations, child behaviors, and the quiet atmospheres of libraries may have been factors as well. Hypothesis 2. Hypothesis 2 stated that there wo uld be a statistically significant relationship between student vocabulary (VOC) scores and the home literacy environment (HLE), above and beyond parent an d teacher education levels. As expected, results indicated that there was a statistical ly significant relationship between VOC and HLE controlling for education levels. The home literacy environment accounted for 8.1% of the variance in student vocabulary scores This finding was consistent with other studies that have identified significant relationships between childrens vocabulary skills and literacy experiences provi ded by parents or other caregi vers at home (e.g., Burgess, Hecht, & Lonigan, 2002; Frijters, Barron, & Brunello, 2000; Snchal, et al., 1998). Frijters and others (2000), fo r instance, discovered that Home Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ) scores accounted for unique variance (13%, p < .001) in PPVT-R (Dunn & Dunn, 1981) scores controlling for phonological aw areness, letter-name, and letter-sound
90 knowledge. Moreover, both the Frijters, et al. (2000) study and the current study found that composite HLE scores measuring a broad array of home literacy activities accounted for more variance in vocabul ary than single items (such as parent-child joint book reading). Thus, gathering information from ho mes about frequency of reading to children, onset of reading to children, frequency of lib rary visits, and numbers of childrens books available can be useful in explaining childre ns vocabulary developmen t. Consistent with Snchal, et al. (1998) and Frijt ers, et al. (2000), results of this study indicate a direct relationship between home literacy activitie s and young childrens performance on oral vocabulary measures. Hypothesis 3. Hypothesis 3 stated that there wo uld be a statistically significant relationship between student Numbers, Lett ers and Words (NLW) sc ores and the home literacy environment (HLE), above and beyond parent and teacher education levels. Findings indicated that there was indeed a statistically significant relationship between NLW and HLE controlling for education levels. As was the case with Hypothesis 2, parent and teacher education le vels were not predictive of student test scores. The home literacy environment explained 3.9% of the variance in student literacy scores. This finding was consistent with other studies th at have uncovered signi ficant relationships between childrens early literacy skills and home literacy experiences (e.g., Frijters, et al., 2000; Zhou, 2000). Frijters and others (2000) reported that the home literacy environment uniquely accounted for 12% of the variance in letter-name and letter-sound measures. Zhou (2000) analyzed data from 4,423 preschool children using the 1993 National Household Education Survey results and concluded that home literacy activities made significant contributions to emerging literacy skills, above and beyond parent education
91 level. Reading to children, telling them st ories, teaching them le tters and words, and visiting the library were all associated with ear ly literacy achievement. It was not surprising that, in the curre nt study, HLE explained less variance in early literacy abilities (3.9%) compared to vocabulary (8.1%). This difference was in keeping with research investigating other variables related to measures of emerging literacy. For example, Frijters and others ( 2000) made the point th at the relationship between home literacy activities and lett er-name and letter-s ound knowledge depends upon childrens phonological aw areness abilities. It is also possible that in this sample, vocabulary learning occurred more naturally du ring home interactions than print-related learning. Research has indicated that varied levels of explicit parent teaching are predictive of childrens early written-language skills. Oral language skills, on the other hand, have been found to be significantly rela ted to home literacy activities (i.e., shared book reading) regardless of parent teaching be haviors (Snchal, et al., 1998). It is not known to what extent parents in this study focused on specifi c aspects of print at home (e.g., letter-name, letter-sound re lationships). However, it is reasonable to conclude that stronger associations between HLE and vocabulary may exist because young childrens vocabulary learning requires less explicit teachin g than print-related learning. Hypotheses 4 and 5. Hypothesis 4 stated that ther e would be a statistically significant relationship between vocabular y (VOC) scores and classroom languageliteracy environment (CLE) scores, above and beyond parent and teacher education levels. Hypothesis 5 stated th at there would be a statisti cally significant relationship between Numbers, Letters and Words (NLW) scores and CLE scores, above and beyond parent and teacher education levels. Res earch data did not support these hypotheses.
92 Statistical analyses revealed non-significant correlations in both cases. These findings did not lend support to the notion that measures of student performance on cognitive tests are equivalent to measures of pr ogram quality. In fact, a negati ve correlation r (97) = -.18, p < .071, ns between CLE and NLW scores undersco red the dissimilarities between the data sets. (In the case of NLW performance, it was conceivable for narrowly focused, skills-driven classrooms to produce higher stude nt scores and receive lower CLE scores on a comprehensive environmental ra ting like the ELLCO.) One explanation for these results is that the effects of the classroom may not yet be apparent. In order to be included in this study, student s were required to have been enrolled in the classroom of interest for at least 6 months. A longer period of time might be necessary before the impact of classroom environments becomes evident in student performance. Longitudinal research has i ndicated that classroom language-literacy environments are related to long-term student outcomes for low-income students (e.g., Dickinson & Tabors, 2001). However, it is mo re difficult to demonstrate the impact of early childhood classroom environments on students from middle-class backgrounds. Although high-quality child care has been linked to better cognitive and social development gains for students over time, eff ect sizes have proven to be modest across social classes and weaker for middle-income st udents in particular (P eisner-Feinberg, et al., 2001). Findings from the current study were consistent with othe r studies that have found no significant relationship between progr am quality and childrens cognitive and language development (e.g., Clarke-Stewart Gruber, & Fitzgerald, 1994; Kontos, 1991). Parent education level can also moderate the influence of classroom environments on
93 young childrens learning (Peisn er-Feinberg, et al., 2001). In the current investigation, therefore, the considerable presence of welleducated parents in the sample may have been a factor. Hypotheses 6 and 7. Hypothesis 6 stated that ther e would be a statistically significant relationship between VOC and C LE, above and beyond parent and teacher education levels and HLE scores. Hypothesis 7 stated that there would be a statistically significant relationship betw een NLW and CLE, above and beyond parent and teacher education levels and HLE scores. Statistic al results did not s upport these hypotheses; analyses revealed non-significant values. Combining CLE data and HLE data did not provide additional information for explaining student language-literacy scores. Instead, these findings highlighted the importance of home literacy environment data in explaining childrens vocabulary and early lite racy scores. Still, classroom observations did provide compelling information regardi ng differences in the quality of early educational environments. Classroom Quality Given the fact that the ea rly childhood centers in this study all served middleto upper-middle class communities, it was surprising that only one-h alf (i.e., 7 out of 14) of the classrooms observed had high levels of support for language and literacy acquisition. This meant that the other seven (50%) of the classrooms studied in this sample exhibited substantial gaps in their la nguage-literacy curricula. Varia tions in classroom languageliteracy environments were cons idered with respect to teach er preparation, student age groupings, and enrollment costs.
94 Teacher preparation. CLE ratings were not statistical ly related to teachers years of education or numbers of general conti nuing education hours. In cidentally, greater numbers of continuing education (CE) hours geared specifically toward enhancing teachers approaches to literacy were not associated with hi gher classroom quality scores. Nonetheless, the type of educational institut ion where teachers receiv ed their training did appear to be connected to classroom quality ratings. Teachers responsible for constructing proficient-to-exemplary classr oom language-literacy environments (CLE) had all attended major four-year universitie s. Their classrooms consistently exhibited high-quality resources for language and literacy development. Teachers whose classrooms ranked in the middle (i.e., basic category) receive d their educations at high schools, community colleges and vocational/t echnical schools. Of the 4 teachers whose CLE scores fell in the lowest category (i.e ., limited), 1 reported attending community college workshops, 1 reported earning a CDA through a local high school training program, 1 had attended a community college and was beginning studi es at a four-year university, and 1 had attended a community co llege and was now a university psychology student. These results raised questions about poten tial differences in teacher preparation programs. It is possible that academic cour ses at major four-year universities better equipped teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills in this area, in comparison to high schools, community colleges/technical sc hools, and CE courses. Literacy-focused continuing education hours had an unexpect ed inverse relations hip with classroom quality measures. In some cases, teache r education activitie s may have provided educators with flawed or incomplete inform ation about early liter acy development that
95 negatively impacted teaching practices. Teacher s in proficient-to-exemplary classrooms clearly demonstrated the ability to transl ate theoretical philos ophies about emergent literacy into everyday practices. Teachers who were educated at high schools, community colleges, or vocational/technical schools and relied heavily on local CE literacy workshops for training, demonstrated lim ited to mediocre language and literacy classroom environments. It may also be that variations in clas sroom quality were rooted in teachers career goals. In this sample, teachers who had at tended major four-year universities worked predominantly with older children (i.e., 4to 5-year-olds), while teachers who had attended high schools, community colleges, and technical schools worked more often with younger children (i.e., 3to 4-year-olds). These parall els may suggest a bias among teachers either toward an inte rest in implementing a broad li teracy curriculum (with older children) or an interest in t eaching rote literacy concepts (e .g., letter and number skills). Such results underscore the need for high-qua lity teacher education programs that fully prepare teachers to promote l iteracy acquisition across all ages. These findings further exemplify the diversity of early childhood pr ofessional preparation programs in the U.S. and wide differences present in teacher tr aining (National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education and the U.S. De partment of Education, 2000). Student age groupings. Results from this study revealed a difference in classroom quality ratings by age group that was statisti cally significant. As mentioned above, CLE scores were statistically si gnificantly higher in classrooms serving older children (M = 60.67 months) in comparison to younger chil dren (M = 49.80 months). This finding indicated that children in 3to 4-year-o ld age groupings received inferior classroom
96 supports for language and literacy learning in relation to child ren in 4to 5-year-old classes. Of the five classrooms serving younger children, four received classroom language-literacy environment (CLE) scores that were in the limited category (i.e., 2.0 2.9 out of 5.0). The remaining classroom fell in the basic category for quality. These results, in fact, signified developmentally in appropriate practices with children below 5 years of age. Classrooms for younger children in this investigation lack ed adequate space, materials, and teacher facilitation of langua ge-literacy learning. Classroom observations raised serious concerns about the nature of learning envi ronments for 3-year-olds and young 4-year-old children in this study (See Classroom Characteristics). Although this occurrence was not anticipated, it was congruou s with literacy inst ruction issues and debates in early childhood education (National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education and the U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Enrollment costs. Data regarding enrollment cost s to parents were collected, although exploration of cost and quality relatio nships was not the main focus of this study. Cost and quality patterns were comparab le to other research findings depicting wide ranges of classroom quality that are not necessarily dependent upon financial measures (Peisner-Feinberg, et al., 1999). Classroom quality varied considerably across the sample as well as within early childhood centers. Classroom language-literacy environment (CLE) scores within centers were not consistent in terms of quality categories suggesting that quality was pe rhaps more closely linked to individual differences between teachers than differences between centers.
97Classroom Characteristics Classrooms fell into three quality cate gories according to total CLE scores: proficient-to-exemplary, basi c, and limited (See Figure 1). Proficient-to-exemplary classrooms. Proficient-to-exemplary classrooms were characterized by high-quality supports overall for language and liter acy learning. These classrooms routinely displayed exemplary orga nization of supplies and materials. There was strong evidence of appropriate furnishings, traffic flow, and use of space. Contents of the classroom were typically labeled and acces sible to children, with a predominance of child-generated work on disp lay. Presence and use of t echnology were apparent in childrens regular access to audiotape recorders and com puters. Technology was often used for a variety of purposes including li teracy activities. Daily schedules provided children with time for independent learning a nd self-directed projects. In most cases, teachers actively facilitated childrens independent exploration of materials. Teachers in proficient-to-exemplary cl assrooms uniformly displayed exemplary classroom management strategies. Children appeared to know a nd understand classroom routines and they were able to participate in conflict resolution with teachers and peers. Teachers clearly communicated expectations to children in multiple ways. Teachers frequently exhibited respect for childrens contributions and created a positive climate for conversation. Interactions between students a nd teachers revealed strong evidence of oral language facilitation in these seven classroom s. Teachers encouraged students to use language to discuss experiences, plan actions, and analyze ideas. Systematic efforts were made to increase childrens spoken vocabularies. In addition, these classrooms uniformly exhibited exemplary presence of books. Book ar eas were well devised, with adequate
98 numbers of books in good condition. Classr ooms provided books across a variety of genres, topics, and levels. In addition, a pproaches to book readi ng were consistently excellent, with a combination of plan ned and informal reading opportunities. Approaches to childrens writing were mostly exemplary, characterized by sufficient access to writing materials, written work on display, and instructional support as needed. There was also strong evidence that proficient-to-exemplary classrooms recognized diverse personal, family, and cultu ral backgrounds. Home support for literacy was exemplary. Teachers consistently co mmunicated with families about childrens language, literacy, and learning. These classr ooms often provided parents with materials to bring home (e.g., book bags) that enhan ced literacy developm ent. Impressions of teachers approaches to assessment indicat ed regular use of appropriate, continuous evaluation methods. Basic classrooms. Three classrooms fell in the basic quality category suggesting that they possessed some of the basic s upports necessary for language and literacy learning. These classrooms demonstrated relative strengths (i.e., two of the three classrooms received an exemplary score) in classroom organization, classroom management, presence of books, approaches to book reading, and r ecognizing diversity. Basic supports were provided for contents of the classroom, oral language facilitation, childrens writing, and assessment. Although there was some evidence of classroom organization, accessibility of materials to ch ildren was somewhat limited. Classroom displays often lacked originality and consisted of arts and crafts replications. Systematic teaching of vocabulary was not observed. Oral language use was encouraged but was not utilized for higher-level an alytical purposes. Some opportunities and supplies were
99 present for childrens writing. However, te achers were not regularly available for assistance. Approaches to assessment we re marked by some communication between teachers and specialists. Still, shared information was not consistently used to modify instruction. Two of the three classrooms received basi c scores for child choice and initiative, classroom climate, and facilitation of home support for literacy. Daily schedules did not regularly allow for deep, self-guided invest igations by children. Classrooms generally displayed a positive tone, yet they did not en courage childrens conversations with each other. Families were not routinely advised to seek out and use community resources to aid in childrens language and literacy learni ng. Weaknesses were also identified in the presence and use of technology and cu rriculum integration. Limited classrooms. The four classrooms in this category provided limited supports for childrens language and literacy learning. Two of these classrooms received exemplary scores for organization of the r oom and presence of books in the classroom. One classroom achieved an exemplary rating for recognition of diversit y. All other scores obtained indicated basic, limited, or defi cient evidence of CLE quality. These results described characteristically low-quality learning environments for young children. Two classrooms demonstrated deficient organizati on of space and materials. These classrooms were extremely small and did not provide ch ildren with multiple areas for grouping or exploration. Limited classrooms contained basic supplies that were inaccessible to children. Presence and use of technology were consistently deficient. Computers and other technologies were typically absent from these classrooms.
100 Low levels of success with facilitating child choice, classroom management, and a positive classroom climate were observe d. Materials were commonly unavailable without the teachers presence and activi ties were lacking in individualization. Expectations for childrens behavior were sometimes confusing or inconsistent. Evidence of respect for childrens contribu tions was limited and marred by impressions of teachers harshness toward students. Basi c supports for oral language development were uniformly observed. Two classrooms disp layed some evidence that books were used routinely to support learning. Approaches to reading and wr iting in limited classrooms were essentially consistent with basic levels of teacher support. Inte gration of curriculum, on the other hand, was deficient in all four of these classrooms. Classroom themes were consistently narrow in scope and lacking in meaningful significance to children. Recognition of diversity and f acilitation of home support fo r literacy were generally basic, while deficiencies we re common in teachers approaches to assessment. Clearly, information gathered through student assessme nt did not significantly impact decisions about teaching practices. Curriculum integration. The single weakest classroom characteristic across all 14 classrooms in this study was curriculum inte gration. Only two classrooms received exemplary ratings in this area. Six classr ooms exhibited basic aspects of curriculum integration and the remaining six were defi cient in this area. Teachers in this study overwhelmingly chose language themes that we re extremely narrow in scope and lacking in connectedness to childrens interests and experiences. For the most part, themes were selected based upon the letter of the week resulting in unrelated target vocabulary (e.g., daddy and doghouses as part of the letter d theme). Furthermore, shifting of themes on a
101 weekly basis did not allow for long-term inve stigations or analyses of topics. The two classrooms that provided children with inte resting topics to explore over time (e.g., learning about butterflies) stood out as unique in this sample. Learning opportunities were not consistently related to childrens conceptual understandings. Although classroom activitie s were often goal-directed, teachers displayed infrequent attempts at making mean ingful connections for children. As such, integration of language and literacy skills wi th content-area activities was scarcely observed. For example, classrooms in this study seldom combined book-related themes and concepts with learning centers, play activities, the arts, or ongoing classroom discussions. Integration of literacy activities across the curriculum was also lacking with regard to placing books and writing materi als in childrens learning centers. It was not clear whether a pattern of poor curriculum integration in this investigation was symptomatic of widespr ead trends in early childhood education. Measures of early childhood classroom langua ge-literacy environments such as the ELLCO are relatively new and just beginning to be utilized in research studies. These results contributed information about specif ic components of school language-literacy environments (e.g., curriculum integration) to the educational research literature. It is possible that the teacher prep aration and CE programs attende d by professionals in this study did not adequately emphasize the critic al importance of unifying and integrating learning experiences for young children. Alte rnately, these results may represent teachers beliefs and orientations toward skills-driven methods as opposed to themedriven teaching strategies.
102Access to Childrens Books at Home In addition to the between-group statistic al procedure describe d earlier in this chapter, post hoc analyses included stepwise re gression analyses to discover if any of the individual items on the home literacy environment (HLE) survey explained variance in student test scores. Results confirmed that although the composite HLE score was the best predictor of vocabulary (p < .004) and early literacy skills (p < .047), the number of childrens books in the home was also a sta tistically significant pr edictor of vocabulary scores (p < .01). Greater numbers of childrens books at home we re positively related to higher vocabulary scores. A similar trend re garding the number of childrens books at home and Numbers, Letters and Words (N LW) scores was also noted but was not statistically significant (p = .051). These findings were consis tent with other studies that reported particularly stable relationships between childrens access to books at home and performance on vocabulary and school read iness instruments (Loeb, et al., 2004; Snchal, et al., 1998). Childrens books can provide parents w ith opportunities to introduce new vocabulary and characteristics of print to children. Further, the mere presence of childrens literature might also play a unique role in childrens explorations of word meanings and print concepts. Hen ce, information about childrens access to books in the home environment may serve as an additional marker for identifying children at risk for academic difficulty. Implications of the Study The current investigation had implications for identification of children at risk, program selection, program assessment, te acher mentoring, and student assessment.
103 Identification of children at risk. Early identification of children predisposed to language and/or literacy delays is critical in order for pr evention and intervention efforts to be effective. This study reiterated fi ndings regarding links between family literacy activities and childrens perfor mance on vocabulary and early lit eracy measures. It is thus suggested that early childhood professionals gather information about home literacy environments to assist in identifying ch ildren at risk for academic difficulties. Information concerning a wide array of home literacy activities (e.g., onset of reading to children, frequency of parent and caregiver reading to ch ildren, number of childrens books at home, and frequency of visits to the public library) can aid in risk assessment. Further, data regarding th e number of childrens books available at home may be particularly useful to teache rs and other professionals. Moreover, given the differences identified in home literacy environments among well-educated households and their relations to early academic abili ties, parents should be provided with extensive supports and resources to enhance childrens languageliteracy experiences at home. These supports and resources should be made available to parents as early as possible (e .g., during prenatal visits, infa ncy) and continue throughout early childhood. Schools, early childhood centers clinics, and other community agencies ought to be prepared to offer language-literacy materials and related ed ucational activities regularly to parents and families. Services may include educational playgroups, parent conferences, book sharing programs, and early langua ge and literacy classes for parents. Program selection. Early childhood professionals shoul d also assist parents in evaluating and selecting pres chool and kindergarten envir onments for children that display strong commitments to rich language and literacy experiences. Results from this
104 study revealed wide variations in classroom quality that were not attributed to financial costs of enrollment. Parents would benefit from informa tion about char acteristics of proficient-to-exemplary versus basic or lim ited classrooms. Finding high-quality care and education for younger children (e.g., 3to 4-ye ars-old) may be of special concern given the importance of early l earning opportunities and the disturbing prospects of developmentally inappropriate practices with young learners. The pr esent investigation revealed that parents from middleto upper-middle class backgrounds require education regarding early childhood edu cation environments. With guidance, parents can make more informed decisions about what to look for in childrens early language and literacy programs. In addition, collaborative effo rts between early childhood professionals and parents may result in better continuity between childrens home and school literacy experiences. Program assessment. Findings from this study did not lend support to the notion that measures of student performance on language and literacy measures are equivalent to measures of program quality. Relationships between student test scores and classroom environmental ratings were statistically non-si gnificant. In fact, ch ildrens standardized test scores had more to do with differences in their home environments than variations in classroom quality. These findings have poten tial policy implications for early childhood education in an era when academic testing of students is often purported to be an acceptable substitute for direct measures of program quality. By measuring student performance and classroom quality separately, clear differences emerged from this investigation. Wide variations in classroom quality were obviously unrelated to student
105 test scores. Hence, the use of academic testi ng as an indirect measure of early childhood program quality was not supported by this study. Instead, evidence pointed to a remark able relationship between teachers educational backgrounds and classroom quality measures. Participants who had attended teacher education programs at major four-year universities consistently received higher classroom quality ratings than teachers trai ned at high schools, community colleges, and vocational/technical schools. Indeed, the result s of this study spoke to the necessity for high-quality early childhood teacher preparation. These findings were consistent with a recent report supporting professional prepar ation of early childhood teachers (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Edu cation, 2004). The AACTE report emphasized the need for exemplary teacher preparation including bachelors degrees for all early childhood educators. In order to promote consistency and qual ity in teacher education, AACTE recommendations also called for incr eased collaboration be tween 2and 4-year colleges as well as between non-profit and fo r-profit teacher cred entialing programs. In the current investigation, it is also important to note that continuing education (CE) courses geared to enhan ce teachers literacy instruction did not appear to improve teachers approaches to reading and writing. Rather, data suggested that CE courses may have provided teachers with flawed or incomp lete information regarding the teaching of literacy skills. Results of this study indicated that high-quality ear ly childhood classrooms that facilitated literacy development were associated with well-educated teachers who had received university educa tions. Therefore, parents and policy makers are urged to carefully consider the edu cational histories and qualifications of early childhood educators when selecting or designing early child care and education programs.
106 Direct measures of classroom quality in this study did provide comprehensive data about classroom language -literacy supports. Results fr om rubric-scored classroom assessments allowed for systematic comp arisons and detailed descriptions of young childrens learning environments. These findings suggested that impor tant features of early childhood language and literacy curricula can be elucidated using well-constructed instruments designed for that purpose. Ea rly childhood education programs should be directly assessed to ensure high-quality learning experi ences for students. Following classroom assessment, teachers should be provided with assistance as needed in improving classroom environments in critic al areas such as curriculum integration. Teacher mentoring. An alarming proportion of teach ers in this study routinely underestimated the intellectua l abilities of young children. During conversations with teachers in basic and limited classrooms, 5 out of 7 teachers made statements reflecting low expectations for students such as, They are too young to write, and, You have to keep the vocabulary simple and related to the letter of the day. The classrooms observed in this investigation frequently lacked adequate literacy supplies and act ivities, opportunities for long-term, theme-driven investigations, and teacher facilitation of language skills for higher-level analysis and problem-solving. Early childhood teachers in such classrooms need ongoing mentoring to help give young children the language-literacy learning opportunities they deserve. Teacher mentori ng programs should be developed to provide teachers with direct supports for im proving classroom language and literacy environments (e.g., print-rich displays, th eme/book-related play and art centers, books, reading, and writing across content areas). Teacher preparation programs of all kinds need to stress the critical importance of an integrated curriculum in early childhood
107 classrooms. University faculty, master te achers, early interventionists, and speechlanguage pathologists are strongl y encouraged to implement intensive teacher mentoring programs to assist in meeting the needs of children who are currently languishing in lowquality educational settings. Student assessment. When formal tests are used to evaluate the abilities of young children, interpretations s hould be informed by the kinds of learning opportunities available to children in their homes and comm unities. In many cases, children arrive at preschool or kindergarten with limited linguistic and literary experi ences to draw upon. Childrens home lives are characterized by marked diversity in terms of culture, values, and appreciation for traditional literacy experiences. Logically, it follows that assessments of young childrens learning should be diversified, in terms of method, compatibility with childrens interests and prior knowledge, a nd consideration of previous learning environments. In this study, home literacy environment was the strongest predictor of student test scores even though the sample consisted of relatively advantag ed middleto uppermiddle SES children. Despite th e fact that the children in this study lived predominantly in well-educated households, notable differences in thei r home literacy experiences helped to explain variations in early acad emic skills. Somewhat surprisingly, parents whose social/academic backgrounds might be considered homogeneous, reportedly implemented the aforementioned literacy activities to remarkably different degrees. These results further advanced the research literature by revealing substantial differences in home literacy environments within a group of highly educated middle-class
108 households. Such findings reinforced the id ea that individual differences among young children should be contemplated with respect to academic assessment. Suggestions for Future Research Additional research is needed to improve our understanding of classroom language and literacy environments. Specifically studies that focus on literacy resources provided to younger children, program impr ovements, and early childhood classroom curriculum integration are recommended. Res earch studies can help to determine if language-literacy environments are consiste ntly poorer in classrooms serving younger (e.g., 3or 4-year-old) children compared to older children. Gatheri ng and analyzing data regarding classroom quality also can assist in program modifications and interventions. Collaborative support may be provided to teacher s, for example, to assist in raising classroom environmental quality ratings. Earl y childhood research is required to reveal extant deficiencies in critical areas such as curriculum integration. The degree to which early childhood teacher preparation programs att une future professionals to early literacy issues such as these also should be explored. Analyses of differences in teacher education programs by focus and type (i.e., community colleges/technical schools, major four-year universities, continuing education courses) may help explain teachers patterns of practice with regard to language and literacy. Follow-up testing of students would allo w for evaluation of student performance from a longitudinal perspective. Home literacy environment and classroom languageliteracy environment data could be used, for in stance, to test predic tions about students future language and literacy sk ills. Future studies similar to the present project should also include children from a wi der SES range to provide a full er spectrum of information
109 across social classes. Additional research regarding the ways parents teach aspects of print and vocabulary at home would better inform inves tigators about relationships between home literacy experiences and childre ns learning of these skills. Furthermore, research regarding the effectiveness of provi ding various language -literacy supports and resources to parents is needed. Admittedly, the current study defined liter acy and home literacy environments in relatively traditional ways. It is recommended that a variety of media (e.g., television, internet, computer software) be investigated in terms of how they facilitate young childrens reading skills at home and at school. Other literacy experiences for children (e.g., visits to bookstores, live theater performances, literacy -oriented play) also should be explored relative to childrens literacy in terests and abilities. Additionally, literacy measures that were not included in this st udy could provide a broade r picture of student learning. Qualitative forms of assessm ent (e.g., anecdotal notes, observational assessments, portfolios) might better capture aspects of childrens language and literacy development in relation to classroom teaching practices. Currently, literacy measures for young ch ildren tend to be narrowly focused and often do not include cultural and experiential aspects of li teracy. A broader view of literacy assessment holds potential for ad apting to diverse individual and cultural backgrounds. It is suggested that future studies inco rporate broad literacy measures (e.g., childrens conversations and attitudes about books, partic ipation in book-related play and art activities, etc.). Assessment of progress in early childhood must also be practical in terms of time consumption. Individualized language or writing sample analyses, for instance, may be too time-consuming for ma ny teachers. Furthermore, some literacy
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132 Appendix A: Brief Teacher Survey Teachers Name Directions: Please complete the following questionnaire. Results will be used for research purposes and will be kept confidential. Your parti cipation will assist us in providing improved services for children in the future. Please respond truthfully to each question, as there are no right or wrong answers on this survey. 1. Which of the following best descr ibes your educational background? a) High school graduate b) High school plus a few college courses c) 1 year of college or other postsecondary schooling d) 2 years of college or ot her postsecondary schooling e) 4 years of college or more 2. How many hours of continui ng education (e.g., workshops, seminars) have you attended in the past 2 years? a) 0-5 hours b) 6-10 hours c) 11-15 hours d) 16-20 hours e) more than 20 hours 3. How many hours of continui ng education (e.g., workshops, seminars) have you attended in the past 2 years that focused s pecifically on literacy development? a) 0-5 hours b) 6-10 hours c) 11-15 hours d) 16-20 hours e) more than 20 hours
133 Appendix A: (Continued) 4. How many times in a week do you read to the children in your classroom? a) not at all b) 1-3 times per week c) 4-6 times per week d) 7-9 times per week e) more than 10 times per week 5. How many times in a week do children participat e in writing activities in your classroom? a) not at all b) 1-3 times per week c) 4-6 times per week d) 7-9 times per week e) more than 10 times per week 6. Where did you receive your educat ion? Please list specific names of schools attended: 7. Please list any students in your cla ss who have a disability (or multiple disabilities): 8. Please list any students who have not been enrolled in your class for at least 6 months:
About the Author Joseph Constantine received B achelors and Masters Degrees from the University of South Florida Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders in 1991 and 1993 respectively. After working as a public school sp eech-language pathologist, he went on to a faculty position at the University of L ouisville School of Medicine in 1996. Mr. Constantine later returned to Florida to work as a therapist for a pediatric rehabilitation clinic. He became a supervising therapist at the University of S outh Florida in 1998 and entered the Curriculum and Inst ruction Ph.D. program in 1999. While in the Ph.D. program at USF, Mr. Constantine was actively involved in a variety of familyand community-based inte rventions. He presented numerous seminars, authored one research publication, and coaut hored several studies. He was also awarded a research grant from the USF Collaborative for Children, Families and Communities in 2004.
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Constantine, Joseph L.
Relationships among early lexical and literacy skills and language-literacy environments at home and school
h [electronic resource] /
by Joseph L. Constantine.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 144 pages.
ABSTRACT:This observational study examined the relationships among home literacy environments, classroom language-literacy environments, and lexical and early literacy skills for 101 (56 male, 45 female) preschool and kindergarten children between the ages of 48 and 69 months. Data for multiple regression analyses were collected from 14 classrooms across 7 early childhood education centers in central Florida using the Home Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ), the Early Language & Literacy Classroom Observation Toolkit (ELLCO), and the Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills (K-SEALS). Seven classrooms scored in the proficient-to-exemplary range on the ELLCO; 3 were rated as basic, and 4 were rated as limited.A statistically significant relationship (r = .20, p < .05) was identified between frequency of children's visits to the public library and classroom quality ratings. The home literacy environment accounted for 8.1% of the variance in student Vocabulary scores (r = .29, p < .01) and 3.9% of the variance in Numbers, Letters and Words scores (r = .20, p < .05) above and beyond teacher and parent education levels. Correlations between ELLCO ratings and students' K-SEALS subtest scores were statistically non-significant. Analyses revealed a statistically significant difference (t = 4.75, p < .001) in ELLCO scores by age group. The number of children's books at home was statistically related to vocabulary scores (r = .26, p < .01). Program costs were not statistically related to classroom quality (r = -.002, p < .996). It was suggested that early childhood professionals gather information about home literacy environments to assist in identifying at-risk students.Parents should be provided with resources to enhance children's language-literacy experiences at home. Further, parents need assistance in evaluating and selecting high-quality early childhood education programs. The use of academic testing as an indirect measure of classroom quality was not supported. However, teachers' educational backgrounds were related to classroom quality, highlighting the need for qualified providers. Early childhood teacher mentoring programs are needed to help improve classroom language-literacy curricula. Student assessments should be informed by the kinds of learning opportunities available to young children in their homes and communities.
Co-adviser: Fleege, Pamela O.
Co-adviser: Graves, Stephen B.
x Early Childhood Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.