A descriptive study of the growth into literacy of 10 rural black kindergarten children from nonliterate homes

Marilyn Ann Quinlan, Fordham University


Children from nonliterate homes seem to form a significant group within the population of at-risk students. This inquiry explores the literacy development over the first year of schooling for such children. Children identified as having low literacy awareness on preschool screening measures were selected for the study if it could be determined that their parents were illiterate. The children were monitored closely over the course of their kindergarten year, July through June. Monthly, detailed observations of the children functioning in their classroom environments and regular, detailed assessments of various aspects of their developing understanding of print were obtained. Teacher, teacher-assistant, and parent interviews added new dimensions of understanding to the data. Each child was presented in a case study concluding with an epilogue that indicated the child's educational placement at the end of the third grade, 4 years after school entrance. All the children studied proved to be aware of environmental print where supportive contexts were provided. Most were highly aware. Awareness of print that lacked those contexts, manuscript print, was, however, minimal throughout the kindergarten year. Those most aware were those who progressed the fastest in literacy understandings. Book-handling knowledge appeared to compare closely with the ability to effectively integrate early reading strategies. Children with the highest book-handling scores in June were also the most advanced in developing beginning reading skills. They were also the best readers at the end of the third grade. Support for developing literacy skills in these children was found to be generally unavailable. Although community resources were present, parents did not seem to know how to go about enlisting support. There seemed to be very little value placed on literacy. The growth in literacy manifest in the kindergarten year in these children was not sufficient to sustain them through their primary grades. By third grade, 40% of the children had been labeled mentally retarded and another 40% were receiving remedial assistance. Only two children were considered in the average range of achievement. The children in the study had proven to be highly at risk. Implications for the education of such children were examined in detail.

Subject Area

Preschool education|Literacy|Reading instruction|African Americans|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Quinlan, Marilyn Ann, "A descriptive study of the growth into literacy of 10 rural black kindergarten children from nonliterate homes" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9631048.