Changing perspectives in the home literacy environment

Changing perspectives in the home literacy environment

First Author: Eliane Segers -- Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen
Keywords: Home Literacy Environment, Early Literacy, digital exposure, Familial Risk
Abstract / Summary: 

The home literacy environment (HLE) has been shown to support children’s early literacy development. HLE is often assessed via questionnaires tapping into the main caregiver’s literacy activities in interaction with their child. However, recently, the traditional HLE has been challenged, in the sense that the child’s environments has rapidly changed over the last decade due to the emergence of new technologies (tablets became mainstream in households after 2010). In addition, research has questioned to what extent the role of HLE remains when brain/gene factors are taken into account (see e.g. Puglisi et al., 2017 SSR; Van Bergen et al., 2017, RRQ). In the current symposium, we focus on these changing perspectives in HLE in which we consider the role of new technologies invading the homes. In addition, we examine the impact of the HLE, when including the role of genetics and the brain in interaction with the environment, in predicting early literacy outcomes.

Symposium Papers: 

Literacy activities with preschool children in the digital home environment and children’s early literacy

First Author/Chair:Galia Meoded Karabanov -- Tel Aviv University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Dorit Aram

Purpose. The study assessed children’s home digital environment in Israel and children’s early literacy. It focused on the nature of parent-child writing interactions using a smartphone and explored its contribution to the child's early literacy beyond the frequency of parent-child literacy activities and the child’s digital activities at home. 

Method. Participants were 66 preschoolers from middle SES (M= 62.35 month), and one of their parents. Data collection was conducted at the child's home. Parents were videotaped while helping their children write a shopping list of four products. We assessed children’s letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and early writing. Parents responded to questionnaires that examined the home literacy and digital activities. 

Results. We found positive correlations between parent-child literacy activities, parental involvement in choosing their child’s digital environment, and the nature of parental writing support and the child's early literacy skills. We found negative correlations between children's individual digital activities and their literacy achievements. Regression analyses showed that the nature of parental writing support (via the smartphone) predicted children's early literacy beyond the frequency of parent-child literacy activities, parental involvement in choosing their child’s digital environment, and children's individual digital activities. 

Conclusions. The study reveals the need for parental involvement in their children’s digital world. It shows the strength of parental writing support in promoting early literacy and emphasizes the potential of joint parent-child digital literacy activities in supporting children’s early literacy. 

The impact of the digital home environment on kindergartner’s language and early literacy.

First Author/Chair:Eliane Segers -- Radboud University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Tijs Kleemans

Purpose: During their kindergarten years, children have a steep growth in lexical development, and begin to develop phonological awareness and grapheme knowledge. The home literacy environment (HLE) is an important factor in this development, but has experienced a sudden shift with the introduction of the tablet computer. Positive relations have been shown between tablet use and early literacy (Neumann, 2016), but it is unclear whether there is a unique effect of the digital environment. We examined whether a digital HLE could be distinguished from a (traditional) analogue HLE, and whether both were related to kindergartners’ language and literacy levels, taking parental expectations into account.

Method: Caregivers of 71 kindergarteners filled out a questionnaire on the HLE (expectations, activities, materials), and the children were assessed on language (vocabulary, grammar) and early literacy (begin phoneme awareness, segmentation skill, grapheme knowledge).

Results: A principal component analysis revealed that a digital environment could be distinguished from an analogue environment. Next, we ran two mediation analyses. Parental expectations were the independent variable, digital and analogue home environment were the mediators and language ability and early literacy, respectively, were the dependent variables. Only the analogue environment was related to children’s language abilities. Parental expectations were related directly to both language and literacy abilities, and to the digital environment.

Conclusion: We replicated effects of the traditional HLE. The fact that there was no relation between the digital home environment and language and literacy outcomes might indicate large variation in the quality of the digital home environment.

Evaluating the respective roles of home literacy environment and white matter organization in shaping early language abilities: a longitudinal investigation from infancy to toddlerhood

First Author/Chair:Jennifer Zuk -- Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Additional authors/chairs: 
Joseph Sanfilippo; Jolijn Vanderauwera; Ally Lee; Jade Dunstan; Ted Turesky; Borjan Gagoski; P. Ellen Grant; Nadine Gaab

Purpose: Environmental input is understood to play a crucial role in shaping language development and corresponding neural pathways, most prominently the arcuate fasiculus (AF). Yet, it remains unclear how home literacy environment (HLE) may shape the brain and behavioral correlates of early language abilities and give rise to subsequent pre-literacy skills. The present study investigates to what extent HLE in infancy predicts emerging language abilities at the toddler age, and the role of the left AF in underlying these relationships.

Methods: Structural neuroimaging was successfully acquired with infants (n = 26, mean age, 8 mo., 4 - 12 mo.) using a natural sleep technique as part of a longitudinal investigation of children with and without familial risk for dyslexia. Infants were then re-invited for follow-up assessment at the toddler age (mean age: 19 mo., 18 – 24 mo.). Automated Fiber Quantification was employed to estimate white matter properties of language-related tracts, and HLE was characterized by parental report utilizing the STIMQ questionnaire.

Results and Conclusions: Preliminary longitudinal analyses reveal that HLE in infancy significantly contributes to the prediction of subsequent receptive and expressive language abilities at the toddler age, and point towards the structural organization of the left AF as a neural pathway underlying these relationships. This research suggests that HLE and language-related white matter organization set an important foundation from as early as infancy in shaping the developmental trajectory of typical and atypical language and literacy development in early childhood, which is then further modified by ongoing input and experience.

The role of family risk and HLE on reading development across grades 1 and 9

First Author/Chair:Daria Khanolainen -- University of Jyväskylä
Additional authors/chairs: 
Minna Torppa; Maria Psyridou; Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen; Anna-Maija Poikkeus

Purpose. This paper focuses on parental reading difficulties, home literacy environment (HLE) and their predictive role in children’s reading development at different developmental stages. The main goal is to establish if parental reading difficulties directly predict children’s reading development or if they are mediated by the HLE. 

Method. This project is a part of the First Steps Study where 1590 mothers and 1507 fathers filled in questionnaires on their reading difficulties and HLE (teaching letter, reading, and amount of shared reading) when children were in Kindergarten. Children’s skill development was followed from kindergarten to Grade 9. Tests for reading fluency and comprehension were administered to children in grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9.

Results. The preliminary results suggest that fathers’ reading difficulties are a stronger risk factor than mother’s reading difficulties. Father’s reading difficulties predicted children’s reading fluency in Grades 1-9 as well as reading comprehension but only in Grades 1-3. Reading difficulties of mothers did not have any effect on children’s fluency and comprehension development. A significant interaction effect of fathers’ and mothers’ reading difficulties on grade 4 reading comprehension was identified. The HLE factors partially mediated the effects of parental reading difficulties on the development of children’s reading skills. The Kindergarten shared reading and teaching activities were significantly associated with children’s reading comprehension and fluency at all assessment points (Grades 1-9).

Conclusions. The results suggest that simple parental questionnaires can be useful in identification of reading fluency but not comprehension difficulties even in long term.

Changing perspectives in the home literacy environment

First Author/Chair:DISCUSSANT Roel van Steensel -- University of Rotterdam

Discussion on the changing perspectives in the home literacy environment, both from the emergence of new technologies as well as from research that takes genetic factor into account.