14 SES 13 A, Family Education, Parenting and School-Family-Community Links III
Emergent literacy is defined as a composite phenomenon that includes knowledge and skills related to development of oral language, meta-linguistic awareness and written language in children, aged 0–5 years (Snow, 2004). The concept rests on the assumption that the process of literacy starts in early childhood, prior the child enters formal education and that it serves as a foundation for a lifelong learning process. To date it is emphasised that the home literacy environment (HLE) plays an important role in the development of (emergent) literacy skills in young children (e.g. Beals & De Temple, 1993; Burgess, Hecht & Lonigan, 2002) and its connection to overall literacy development was explored through general home resources and routines, parental practices, and beliefs related directly to emergent literacy development. Among the few HLE practices, joint parent–child storybook reading activity is contested to be a strong predictor of successful emergent readers, child’s later reading achievement (Dickinson & Tabors, 1991; van Kleeck et al., 2003) and an aspect of children's general language competence (Marjanovič-Umek, Fekonja-Peklaj & Podlesek,2012). It is emphasised that children benefit more in the process of learning to read when parents practice dialogical reading (shared reading practice where an adult and a child change roles) as opposed to simple shared book reading where an adult reads a book to a child without requiring extensive interaction with him/her (Whitehurst, Falco, Lonigan, Fischel, DeBaryshe, Valdez-Menchaca, & Caulfield, 1988). In addition, several studies have pointed to culturally and SES based distinctive parents' practices related to storybook reading (Heath, 1982; Bus, Leseman & Keultjes, 2000). As pointed by Colledge (2005) completion of any kind of narrative depends on children’s sociocultural background, which calls upon a broad framework of sociocultural analysis in studies examining development of language use in relation to written materials in home, taking into account distinctive characteristics of communities in question.
When it comes to the structure of storybooks for preschoolers (i.e. relation between text and pictures), illustrations play an important role in joint-reading experience by helping an adult reader and a child to establish the setting, to define and develop characters and plot, to reinforce text as well as to contribute to text coherence, but also to provide different view point (Fang, 1996). However, recent eye tracking studies showed that children mainly pay attention on illustrations while parents' focus is on the text, which breaks the circle of joint-attention necessary for acquisition of print-related skills (e.g. Justice, Pullen, & Pence, 2008).
In this paper we examine the social practice of joint storybook reading in Serbian families with 3 to 5 years old children in natural setting of home environment, focusing on how pictures and words relate in picture books and whether specific strategies, used by parents when reading the story, affect the complexity of children’s spontaneous comments to story line and its illustrated details. As Serbian language belongs to a South-Slavic language with transparent orthography the data contribute to existing data on cross-cultural differences in home literacy environment and joint storybook reading practices.
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