Emergent literacy in two educational settings: A traditional kindergarten classroom and a holistic computer intervention

June Hodge Davis, University of Pennsylvania


This study is an examination of the emergent literacies of five- and six-year-olds in two distinct educational settings within the same school: a kindergarten classroom using reading readiness materials, and a computer intervention using a children's word processing program. During the computer intervention, six students, of varying abilities according to their teacher, engaged in authentic reading and writing practices, which they were not given the opportunity to do in their traditional kindergarten classroom. The study argues that the differences in the children's performance is based, in large part, on the pedagogical lenses of the adults in each setting: the kindergarten teacher supported a code-based view of reading instruction and an autonomous model of literacy, while the computer intervention supported a meaning-based view of reading and an ideological model of literacy. As teacher/researcher during the computer intervention, I argue that my holistic approach to learning provides an alternative picture of the children as sophisticated meaning-makers-when compared to the limited reading readiness view of the kindergarten teacher. This argument is supported by extensive descriptions of classroom and computer "scenes" in which the performances of the students are sharply contrasted. The methodology of this study embeds a pullout computer intervention within a detailed ethnography of literacy practices in kindergarten. In an attempt to address the developing rapprochement between relativist and positivist approaches to educational research, I included traditional measures of reading "skills" and attribution interviews, brought together in a Literacy Practices Repertoire, to supplement the ongoing ethnography. Converging evidence presented here from the complementary paradigms of experimental and ethnographic research led me to question the notion of computer, (or other instructional), "effectiveness" independent of educational contexts. The study concludes with an analysis of the differences between the two settings. I suggest that multiple literacies can be negotiated within a school, depending not on the materials used, but on the construction and definition of literacy held by the participants in each setting.

Subject Area

Reading instruction|Early childhood education|Language arts|Educational technology

Recommended Citation

Davis, June Hodge, "Emergent literacy in two educational settings: A traditional kindergarten classroom and a holistic computer intervention" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9125626.