Date of Award

2000

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Higher Education Administration PhD

First Advisor

Hinsdale Bernard

Second Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Third Advisor

Lionel Matthews

Abstract

Problem. In some school districts, low literacy proficiency is a problem of tremendous proportion. Assessing whether a solid foundation is being laid is more important than focusing our efforts at remediation in the later years. This study aimed at investigating the illiteracy problem at the "root" level. The purpose of the study was to determine the characteristics of the home and classroom literacy environments and the development of print, writing, and story concepts of kindergartners in two selected school districts. It also explored whether there was a difference in the performance of students from morning, afternoon, alternate whole-day, and whole-day kindergarten programs. It also examined the relationships among several home environmental variables. It was envisioned that this study could reveal where children were at in their literacy development and provide teachers and parents with the opportunity to reflect on and improve their practice.

Method. One hundred and fourteen kindergartners participated in the study. The Preliteracy Inventory was used to collect data on the kindergartners' print, story, and writing concepts. The data were analyzed using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and a one-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) to compare the performance of children in the four different types of kindergarten programs. Through a parent survey, data were collected on the home literacy environment. The seven teachers of the kindergartners were interviewed to collect data on the classroom literacy environment. The Chi-square test of independence was performed to test six hypotheses in order to determine whether a significant relationship existed among the selected variables.

Results. With regard to the three emergent literacy concepts measured, performance ratings indicated that, for each concept measured, the majority of students were in the process of developing the required skills. However, students were identified who fell below developmentally appropriate benchmarks. The ANOVA of the four kindergarten programs on each emergent literacy concept indicated that they did not differ significantly except for the "how" component of print concepts-F (3.110) = 3.766.p<.05, and the "writing story" component of writing concepts - F(3.110) = 6.779.p<.05.
Using age as a covariate, the ANCOVA for the four kindergarten programs on these two variables found that only the children in the afternoon kindergarten program performed significantly lower than their counterparts in the other programs-F (3.109) = 5.796.p<.01, on the "writing story" component of writing concepts. Interview data revealed that most homes and classrooms had many characteristics of a literacy-rich environment. Of the six null hypotheses tested with regard to the home environment, only one was rejected. The Chi-square test of independence found a significant relationship between the frequency with which a child is read to and child's ability to read words and phrases in books (x2 = 10.37.p<.01).

Conclusions. Assessment of kindergartners and their home and classroom literacy environments appears to be useful. Emerging from the findings are indications of aspects of the home and classroom environment that were satisfactory and others that could be improved. There were 25 (22%) students or fewer who fell below developmentally appropriate benchmarks on the three concepts measured. Comparisons of student performance by type of kindergarten program found no significant differences except for the "writing story" component of writing concepts. A significant relationship exists between frequency of reading to a child and a child's ability to read words and phrases in books.

Subject Area

Reading (Preschool)--Language experience approach, Kindergarten--Curricula, Literacy--Case studies.

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