Monday, January 30, 2012

Heath (1982) - What no bedtime story means

Heath, S. B. (1982). What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school. Language in Society. 11(2):49-76.

Maintown [is a] white middle-class neighborhoods in a city of the Piedmont Carolina, families of fifteen primary-level school teachers (p.52)

Roadville is a white working-class community of families steeped for four generations in the life of the textile mill. (p57)

Trackton is a working-class black community whose older generations have been brought up on the land, either farming their own land or working for other landowners. However, in the past decade, they have found work in the textile mills. (p57)

Maintown: bedtime stories; children learn/taught what-explanations, classification and knowledge construction, decontextualization, affective comments, reason-explanations (p71)

Roadville: bedtime stories; children learn/taught what-explanations but little or no decontextualization, emphasis on personal experience; no analytic statements or universal truths (p71)

Trackton: no bedtime stories; few occassions for reading to or with children; good storytelling valued; talked about events they witness are rewarded

Learning how to take meaning from writing before one learns to read involves repeated practice in using and learning from language through appropriate participation in literacy events such as exhibitor/questioner and spectator/respondendt yads (Scollon and Scollon 1979) or group negotiation of the meaning of a written text. Children have to learn to select, hold, and retrieve content from books and other written or printed texts in accordance with their community's rules or "ways of taking," and the children's learning follows community paths of language socialization. In each society, certain kinds of childhood participation in literacy events may precedeo thers, as the developmental sequence builds toward the whole complex of home and community behaviors characteristic of the society. [p.70]

Roadville and Trackton tell us that the mainstream type of literacy orientation is not the only type even among Western societies. They also tell us that the mainstream ways of acquiring communicative competence do not offer a universally applicable model of development. They offer proof of Hymes' assertion a decade ago that "it is impossible to generalize validly about 'oral' vs. 'literate' cultures as uniform types" (Hymes 1973: 54). (p.73)

Yet in spite of such warnings and analyses of the uses and functions of writing in the specific proposals for comparative development and organization of cultural systems (cf. Basso 1974: 432), the majority of research on literacy has focused on differences in class, amount of education, and level of civilization among groups having different literacy characteristics. (p.73-74)

"We need, in short, a great deal of ethnography" (Hymes 1973: 57) to provide descriptions of the ways different social groups "take" knowledge from the environment. For written sources, these ways of taking may be analyzed in terms of types of literacy events, such as group negotiation of meaning from written texts, individual "looking things up" in reference books, writing family records in Bibles, and the dozens of other types of occasions when books or other written materials are integral to interpretation in an interaction. These must in turn be analyzed in terms of the specific features of literacy events, such as labelling, what-explanation, affective comments, reason-explanations, and many other possibilities. Literacy events must also be interpreted in relation to the larger sociocultural patterns which they may exemplify or reflect. (p.74)

The culture children learn as they grow up is, in fact, "'ways of taking" meaning from the environment around them. The means of making sense from books and relating their contents to knowledge about the real world is but one "'way of taking" that is often interpreted as "natural" rather than learned. The quote also reminds us that teachers (and researchers alike) have not recognized that ways of taking from books are as much a part of learned behavior as are ways of eating, sitting, playing games, and building houses. (p.49)

In some communities [the] ways of schools and institutions are very similar to the ways learned at home; in other communities the ways of school are merely an overlay on the home-taught ways and may be in conflict with them. (p.50)

Just how does what is frequently termed "the literate tradition" envelope the child in knowledge about interrelationshipsb etween oral and written language, between knowing something and knowing ways of labelling and displaying it? We have even less information about the variety of ways children from non-mainstream homes learn about reading, writing, and using oral language to display knowledge in their preschool environment. The general view has been that whatever it is that mainstream school-oriented homes have, these other homes do not have it; thus these children are not from the literate tradition and are not likely to succeed in school. (p.50)

A key concept for the empirical study of ways of taking meaning from written sources across communities is that of literacy events: occasions in which written language is integral to the nature of participants' interactions and their interpretive processes and strategies. Familiar literacy events for mainstream preschoolers are bedtime stories, reading cereal boxes, stop signs, and television ads, and interpreting instructions for commercial games and toys. In such literacy events, participants follow socially established rules for verbalizing what they know from and about the written material. Each community has rules for socially interacting and sharing knowledge in literacy events. (p.50)

The bedtime story is a major literacy event which helps set patterns of behavior that recur repeatedly through the life of mainstream children and adults. (p.51)

Before the age of two, the child is socialized into the "'initiation-reply-evaluation sequences" repeatedly described as the central structural feature of classroom lessons. (p.51) Training in ways of responding to this pattern begins very early in the labelling activities of mainstream parents and children. (p.52)

Reading for comprehension involves an internal replaying of the same types of questions adults ask children of bedtime stories. We seek what-explanations, asking what the topic is, establishing it as predictable and recognizing it in new situational contexts by classifying and categorizing it in our mind with other phenomena. (p54)

These various ways of taking [from books] are sometimes referred to as "cognitive styles" or "learning styles." It is generally accepted in the research literature that they are influenced by early socialization experiences and correlated with such features of the society in which the child is reared as social organization, reliance on authority, male-female roles, and so on. These styles are often seen as two contrasting types, most frequently termed "field independent-field dependent" (Witkin et al. 1966) or "analytic-relational" (Kagan, Sigel, and Moss I963; Cohen 1968, 1969, 1971). The analytic field-independent style is generally presented as that which correlates positively with high achievement and general academic and social success in school. Several studies discuss ways in which this style is played out in school - in preferred ways of responding to pictures and written text and selecting from among a choice of answers to test items. (p55)

In both [the Roadville and Trackton] communities, children go to school with certain expectancies of print and, in Trackton especially, children have a keen sense that reading is something one does to learn something one needs to know (Heath 1980). ... Roadville and Trackton view children's learning of language from two radically different perspectives: in Trackton, children "learn to talk," in Roadville, adults "teach them how to talk." (p57)

No comments:

Post a Comment