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When young children conquer their own forms of reading and writing

Elisabeth Björklund has analysed the context in which children use narrative picture books and text-based material. In addition she has studied the kind of interaction that takes place when children are engaged in literacy – in telling, reading and writing – and she also shows the content of children’s communication.
The material for the study is comprised of video recordings of children in a pre-school. The children are aged from eighteen months to three years old.

The results reveal that the children’s narratives, reading and writing involve more than simply turning the pages and pointing and looking at pictures, and that the children are constantly engaged in their literacy in a variety of ways.

Some of the children themselves underscore the fact that it is a question precisely of literacy when they say ”I am reading” or ”it says there”.

- The children view themselves as readers or writers, rather than being involved in mimicry or play. In other words, they have the skills and maturity to achieve a lot all by themselves, says Elisabeth Björklund.

Two overarching forms emerge to describe the content of children’s literacy. One is telling and the other is reading and drawing/writing. In-depth analysis reveals that the children themselves both construct their own knowledge of narrative and create their own manifesto of literacy. The children emphasize what they are doing by expressing and defining themselves as both readers and writers/drawers.

- My real interest is not focussed on the fact that small children should learn to read and write at an early age, but is rather directed at what they actually do in terms of activities and actions that involve writing and reading, says Elisabeth Björklund.

She feels that when it comes to the youngest children, the significance of literacy should be reconsidered as knowledge about children’s linguistic development alone is not sufficient to capture the entire breadth of the process.

- Another conclusion is that storytelling and reading and writing in the broader sense have a distinct place in children’s everyday lives. This is clearly conveyed to the surroundings in the way in which they participate, contribute, create meaningful contexts, interact and communicate, says Elisabeth Björklund, who has been working within teacher training at the University of Gävle for 30 years.

Helena Aaberg | alfa
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