I woke up (early) this morning thinking about a program I heard on public radio yesterday. It was a rebroadcast of an interview with Governor Mario Cuomo talking about issues of justice, including poverty and opportunity. The broadcast was originally aired 20 years ago. It reminded me of another story that doesn’t seem to have changed much either in the last 20 (or 30 or 40) years—oral language, literacy, and the achievement gap.

I have been reading online and from text a great deal about the achievement gap and its relationship to oral language development and early literacy skills.   The rebroadcast prompted me to go to my library and find a book on Language in Early Childhood Education, edited by Courtney B. Cazden. It was published in 1972 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Although this book does not directly address the relationship between oral language and literacy or literacy and the achievement gap, it clearly focuses on the relationship between home (language)and school (language) and between the role of disadvantage in learning. In this text Cazden and her colleagues analyzed existing language programs used in preschool, and contrasted effective home and school practices.

Another of my favorite “old” references is a book produced by the National Council of Teachers of English written by Walter Loban: Language Development, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve, also published in the 1970’s. In that text Loban traces the language and literacy development of the same 211 children from kindergarten to grade 12. His most telling finding is that the children who start behind, those in the lowest socioeconomic groups, stay behind….unless there is specific intervention. These are not children who differ in innate intellectual ability when they start school.

Loban says: “Although various ethnic backgrounds are included in all three groups (high, low, mixed), the same is not true of socioeconomic background. The high functioning group is definitely skewed in the direction of the most favored socioeconomic conditions; the low functioning group members from the least favored background.”

Eternal optimist that I am, I don’t believe that this recycling has to continue. We know a great deal about oral language development, early literacy, and the achievement gap. We need to know how to put what we know into practice and why what we know isn’t put into practice. I hope this blog will offer insights into how to make that happen by high lighting successful programs and practices.

One of the sources I’ve mentioned before is Listening and Speaking for Preschool Through Third Grade edited by Lauren B. Resnick an Catherine E. Snow, Published by the International Reading Association in 2008.

Three other sources I’m reading now and recommend:

Assessing Preschool Literacy Development by Billie J. Enz an Lesley Mandel Morrow Oral Language and Early Literacy in Preschool: Talking, Reading, and Writing by Kathleen A. Roskos, Patton O. Tabors, and Lisa A. Lehnart

Both were also published in 2009 by The International Reading Association.

A third resource, one of the best articles I have read on early literacy is: Common Core State Standards and Early Childhood Literacy Instruction: Confusion and Conclusions by Jessica Hoffman, Katie Pagica and William Teale. I think this is an extraordinarily balanced treatment of the reading standards in relation to preschool learning. https://www.academia.edu/4622466/Common_Core_State_Standards_and_Early_Childhood_Literacy_Instruction_Confusions_and_Conclusions