THE MAKING OF A READER: A CASE STUDY OF PRESCHOOL LITERARY SOCIALIZATION

MARILYN COCHRAN-SMITH, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Becoming a reader requires shifting from the language strategies used to interpret face-to-face oral interactions to the language strategies used to interpret decontextualized essayist literacy. We know little, however, about the ways children in literate communities make this shift. This study concerns the ways adults help children acquire and develop the literary and social knowledge needed to appropriately interpret and use texts and other printed materials. It focuses on the experiences of one group of preschoolers who are involved in the process of making the transition from oral to written language.^ The study was based on participant observation, interviewing and audio-recording of storyreadings over a period of 18 months at a private, middle-class nursery school in a school-oriented Philadelphia community. The primary data base was a corpus of 100 annotated storyreading transcriptions. Storyreadings and literacy events in the nursery school were analyzed according to their structures of interactional and interpretive norms.^ Although formal reading instruction was discouraged, print-based activities were pervasive in nursery school life. The children were exposed daily to the uses of literacy and very early developed considerable competence in using reading and writing for a number of purposes.^ Nursery school storyreading was located within adult-child social interaction and was characterized by the cooperative negotiation of textual meanings. Three types of adult-child verbal interactions around storyreading were identified: (I) "readiness" interactions that established or maintained a physical and psychological bookreading frame, (II) "life-to-text" interactions that helped story-listeners use their knowledge in order to make sense of texts, and (III) "text-to-life" interactions that helped story-listeners use textual knowledge to make sense of their lives.^ This case study documents the experiences of one group of preschoolers as they make the shift from the oral to the written language strategies of their community. Adult-child oral storyreading served as a key to the transition and transformed the reading of essayist literacy from an internalized, automatic process to an explicit, deliberate process. ^

Subject Area

Education, Language and Literature

Recommended Citation

MARILYN COCHRAN-SMITH, "THE MAKING OF A READER: A CASE STUDY OF PRESCHOOL LITERARY SOCIALIZATION" (January 1, 1982). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI8217096.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8217096

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