Language and Literacy what are they? How do they relate? How do we learn them? These are just a few questions one might ask them self when they contemplate the effect language and literacy have on learning. “Forms of language and literacy develop supportively and interactively. Children build on oral language knowledge and practices as they learn to read and write’ they develop key understandings about reading through writing, and they extend their writing range through reading” (Braunger & Lewis, 2005). This illustrates how at even the most basic level, language and literacy are interconnected from the very beginning.
Therefore, in order to dissect each to see how children learn each, one needs to have a full understanding of both language and literacy apart from each other before one can fully understand how they work together. Language is first and foremost functional. It can be divided into two parts; written language and oral language. “Language is essential to learning, and ready, as a specialized form of language, is not only a basic skill, it is an indispensible tool for critical and creative thinking” (Braunger & Lewis 2005).
There are many similarities between written and oral language, “Reading, writing, speaking and listening, at the deep levels of production and comprehension, are parallel manifestations of the same vital human function – the mind’s effort to create meaning’(Cambourne, 1988)” (Braunger & Lewis, 2005). For both written and oral language development, children go through a similar learning process; seeing/hearing, recognizing, awareness of the differences in what they are seeing/hearing, participation in speaking/writing (Braunger & Lewis, 2005).
While there are many similarities, the two modes of language are different in many complex and interesting ways. These differences are due to such “pragmatic factors as psychological and physical distance from audience, function, amount of time people have to produce language, and degree of permanence (Chafe & Danielwicz, 1987; Olson 1977; Rubin, 1978; Tannen, 1982). The most salient difference is that the two require different kinds of knowledge that learners must acquire in order to operate with and on them” (Braunger & Lewis, 2005).
Additional differences are that each mode requires specific knowledge that cannot be transferred to the other and also that “written language is doubly symbolic; readers and writers must become at least somewhat conscious of their knowledge of oral language, which isn’t necessary in speaking” (Braunger & Lewis, 2005). Another major difference between written and oral language is its accessibility. Oral language is very readily available through conversations, recordings, music, etc. whereas written language is much harder to come by since it has to be created and then made accessible for others (Braunger & Lewis, 2005).
Aside from their similarities and differences listed above written and oral language make up the building blocks of literacy. “Literacy allows us to make connections between our own and others’ experiences; to inquire systematically into important matters; and to access, analyze and evaluate information and arguments. In short, literacy is key to success in school and beyond for effective participation in the workforce, the community, and the body politic” (Braunger & Lewis, 2005). Literacy occurs in stages with the primary development taking place during childhood and adolescents.
During adolescents is when our literacy knowledgebase grows and deepens the most. Some of the key features in helping develop an adolescents literacy are; reading a wide variety of texts and genres, teacher modeling, cognitive collaboration, and assessment of strengths. However parents play the most important role in a child’s language and literacy development. It has been shown that the more involved families are in the literacy development of children, the more success the student will achieve (Braunger & Lewis, 2005).
It has also been proven that children who have more language experiences such as, opportunities to talk, experiences with stories both oral and written, verbal interaction between adult and child during story readings, and opportunities to draw and write, fare better once they reach a school learning environment since they have had more exposure to the things they are learning in the classroom. This early preparation and learning is vital for building a student’s confidence which will affect all aspects of their schooling.
(Braunger & Lewis, 2005). “The diversity of public schools today does not support a ‘one size fits all’ program of reading instruction” (Braunger & Lewis, 2005). In other words, we as educators need to ensure that the literacy programs we use are tailored to fit the needs and interests of our individual students if we want to ensure they develop their language and literacy skills to the fullest. ? References Jane Braunger & Jan Patricia Lewis, (2005). Building a Knowledge Base in Reading (2nd ed. )
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