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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


LESSING, Ansie  and  DE WITT, Marike. The support of the preschool child as emergent reader - a pilot study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.2-2, pp.660-677. ISSN 2224-7912.

Reading achievement of South African children is not on par with world standards and is a matter of great concern for parents, teachers and the educational authorities. According to the PIRLS-report (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) of 2006 South African grade 4- and 5-learners manifested the lowest reading achievement of 45 participating countries. The same tendency was reflected in the Annual National Assessment (ANA) for 2013 and 2014. The development of emergent literacy and pre-reading skills in the preschool years plays an important role in reading achievement in school. Parents and other role players involved with preschoolers thus play an important role in preparing children for reading. The authors ' main argument is that parents and other role players have an important role in the development of children's emergent literacy and emergent reading. Parents and other role players should not only be empowered to support children to achieve success but the specific South African context should be taken into account. This article reflects on a literature study as pilot study to gather important information regarding emergent reading which can be used by facilitators to empower parents and other role players working with preschool children. Therefore, the aim of the article is a discussion of a literature study on emergent reading and the reading process as part of emergent literacy and the role of parents and other role players in the development thereof. The aim of the research is intertwined with the research question: What, according to literature, is emergent reading and what should facilitators attend to in empowering parents and role players to support children as emergent readers? A thematic analysis of applicable academic literature, journal articles and internet information was done and activities contributing to pre-reading skills were identified. The findings of the literature study were used to develop a simple schematic presentation on various aspects of emergent reading which can be used to provide knowledge and empower parents and other role players to support children as emergent readers. Reading is not a one dimensional process, but involves physical, emotional, social and psychological aspects. It is a complex process aiming at reading comprehension, but also includes the ability to decode unknown words. Well-developed functional reading skills (decoding, phonology and phonemic awareness, orthography, morphology, syntax and print knowledge) are important for reading success and depend on the mastering of sensory integration which includes visual and auditory perceptual skills. Reading comprehension goes hand in hand with thought and is improved by vocabulary development and purposeful conversations aimed at the acquisition of vocabulary. Various reading strategies contribute to comprehension: determining relationships, asking of questions, making deductions, distinguishing between important and unimportant information, making summaries, visualising and monitoring of understanding. Emergent reading as part of emergent literacy implies the acquisition of various language skills, including the various skills necessary for reading success. The learning environment, inter alia the culture, economic status, time spent with children, and stimulating activities, plays an important role in the development of these skills. The development of emergent reading starts in the infant phase but speeds up during the early childhood years. Perceptual skills (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, smell and taste) underlying emergent literacy, are being acquired since birth by means of play. Experience, and specifically language experience, listening skills, concentration, perceptual awareness, vocabulary, conversations, awareness of the phonological units of speech, rhythm, print knowledge, alliteration and knowledge of the alphabet are important indicators of reading success. Parents and other role players need information regarding the physical, social, emotional and psychological needs of the pre-schooler for the development of emergent literacy which forms the foundation of emergent reading. Age appropriate activities, security and play-based activities are important when considering the development of the preschool child. Parents have a task in the development of children's emergent literacy which includes emergent reading regarding listening, speaking and concentration skills as well as perceptual skills and eye movements. Everyday conversations and playing with children are important tools for this development. Concrete experience by visiting places and talking about the experiences enhances the childrens ' language acquisition. Parents should be actively involved with their children, utilising reading together not only for vocabulary acquisition but also to increase the understanding of the language. Ensure that reading to the child is a joyful activity and show enthusiasm and a positive attitude towards reading. Carefully selected books to suit the age of the child can be used for picture reading, reading together, dialogue reading and interactive reading. Provide books to the child and select these books to suit the child's age and developmental level; keep a balance between the text and the illustration, ensure understandable vocabulary and opportunities to discuss the content of the stories. The wealth of knowledge presented in the literature is unfortunately not accessible to the majority of South African children due to poverty and in some cases also illiteracy of those bringing up the children. An asset based approach may be valuable to support these parents and role players. Special programmes aiming at the unique needs of the specific societies and taking their specific abilities and strengths in consideration will benefit parents. The literature study pictures an ideal role for parents supporting their children as emergent readers and is valuable in the possible development of a support programme to empower parents and practitioners for their task. Parents need to understand the importance of language development and emergent literacy for reading success. Applicable knowledge should be provided and workshops presented to assist them to create simple resources, like puppets which can be used for story telling and language development. Picture books and pictures in advertisements and magazines are useful for vocabulary and language development. Support should always be handled with empathy and sensitivity, keeping in mind that illiterate parents cannot read, may not have any books and may also be intimidated by books and literacy.

Keywords : emergent reading; pre-reading skills; reading; empowerment of parents; reading for children; interactive reading; dialogue reading; phonemic awareness; morphology; syntax; print knowledge; reference to print.

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