Literacy Acquisition

Literacy Acquisition

Social constructions and the influence that society and attitudes, as well as beliefs and approaches individuals gain within their social contexts usually significantly influence their ability to acquire new information. The influence that patterns of socialization usually have, normally take on the form of affecting the importance one attaches to a given piece of information, their ability to interpret the arising information, as well as their ability to relate this information to information they may already have. The socialization process, according to Heath, is particularly important when it comes to children in their pre-school years. Such children, Heath argues, usually learn a certain culture growing up, as to how they should infer meaning from information, as well as internalize this information. This therefore, affects the manner with which these children make sense of materials, books or experiences of the real world. As such, children normally follow specific socially established patterns and rules, when it comes to not just verbalizing about, but also taking in what they may need to know about a given written material. Heath’s argument suggests, therefore, that literacy practices differ distinctly from one community to another, as is implied in her descriptions of the practices witnessed in Maintown, Roadville and Trackton.

Literacy Acquisition

In Maintown, the author argues that emphasis from a very early age, as early as 6 months, is usually on reading, and less so on writing. Children are in most cases taught from a very tender age to be creative, and to associate with story telling and reading. Characters within a majority of the popular stories are introduced to the children at a very early age, and an association between these characters and real life occurrences made, from these early instances. Right from these tender ages, children are taught to construct knowledge based on explanations and labeling procedures provided during the preschool years of these children. These procedures also incorporate the important aspect of gaining skills that enable children to relate new information, or items to old knowledge through fictionalization and narratives. In the case of Roadville, Heath posits that focus is mostly on learning the letters of the alphabet and reading, without any specific focus being put on how the reading fits into the larger real life context. The main focus is therefore simply ensuring the children gain an early orientation to the written word, without any further emphasis on the application of the knowledge gain. Although the common practices of labeling, explanations, and featuring do exist in the literary practices of Roadville, they are not sufficiently spread throughout the child’s life to ensure they act in a sustained, overlapping and interdependent fashion, as is the case in Maintown. Finally, Heath suggests that the literary practices of Trackton are almost non-existent. Pre-schoolers are therefore, left to their own devices, with most of the time that would have otherwise been allocated to helping children achieve proficiency being allocated and used for social interaction. Students therefore not only fail to gain certain essential skills, but fail completely to gain any of the necessary skills, with the exception of only the most basic of reading styles. Through these three examples, Heath is able to exhaustively demonstrate the integral role that literary practices encouraged by a given cultures usually have on how individuals absorb and interpret knowledge.

Personally, I do recall learning to read and write, in a process that mostly emphasized on the learning of the letters of the alphabet, and how to write and read. In most cases, reading exercises were confined to specific times and within specific contexts in terms of venue. This was quite similar to the practices Heath characterizes with Roadville, where seemingly, the learning simply concentrated around the letters of the alphabet and the acquisition of reading and writing skills, without clear indications as to how those skills would relate to daily life. The learning therefore, simply focused on reading and gaining proficiency in reading and writing using the knowledge gained on the letters of the alphabet, practices such as spelling were routinely practiced in the house, with associations being made between letters of the alphabet and numerous inanimate objects. However, unlike in the literacy practices of Mainstown, the association that was provided was not a sustained one. Further, there were numerous instances in which stories were read unlike in the case of most Roadville families, although the participation and guidance was not as widespread as is the case in Mainstown. Indeed this difference, did serve to negatively impact on my ability to gain, understand and internalize new information when I started school. The culture within which I had grown up, as well as the literary practices within which I grew up, negatively impacted on my ability to gain new information as well as associate it to old information. Further, this lack of encouragement to engage in the abstract and creatively interpret the stories being told, no doubt significantly curtailed my ability to be creative.

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