An Early Start: Ethnography of Literacy on Alabama Toddlers

The following is a 10-week ethnographic study that follows two southern Alabama families. The paper focuses on each family’s three-year-old boy as he grows up in a fast-paced, ever-changing society where literacy is paramount. Written in the fall of 2005.

Introduction

Glaring at the front cover of A Trick or a Treat? A Not-Too-Scary Window Surprise Book, I notice the bright colors and the amazed faces of three kids staring into a cutout window that reveals the shadowy figure of a witch. Inside the cover, a girl holding a pot with a green plant makes up the previously thought witch shadow. Following the shock and awe of the opening page is a short four-sentence paragraph with big, bold letters highlighted further by exclamation marks. This very colorful and simplistic book was the first children’s book I encountered while observing one of the toddlers for my research. It is also the quintessential children’s book because I came across some of the same ideas (bright colors and bold letters) in other books over the course of my research. I have jotted down countless names of books that use the same mold to get a child’s attention and hold it for a few pages, while observing two families.

The two families that I have been observing are the Wilsons and the Peavys. More specifically, I have been exploring the richly literate lives of their 3-year-old toddlers, and analyzing how their environment promotes literacy. While observing the families, I noticed something very different from what I remember of my own childhood, books. Both of the 3-year-old toddlers have their very own bookshelves, making me a little bit envious. However, the children I have been observing are not ready to read yet, at least not by themselves. They still need the assistance of their family to guide them along.

Instead of spending a few hours a week inside each home, I opted to stay for a few entire days in order to observe a typical day for each family. This is important because a toddler’s typical day mostly consists of a lot of running around in circles (I mean that literally), screaming and shouting, then a little bit of crying, followed by the same cycle. Eventually, I get to see them interact with books, paper and crayons, wooden blocks that shape the alphabet, music, television, and toy laptop computers. When gaining access into these households I suggested to the parents that I become a full member of the family during my stay, aside from changing diapers, in order to view literacy as part of the toddlers’ lives.

Most of my observation has centered on the two three year olds, Blake and Bradey, simply because Blain (17 months) is still learning to form words and walk without falling over and Archer (5 months) is beginning to spew out a few syllables. Both sets of parents come from similar backgrounds, and each still lives within a 30-minute drive from where they grew up. Yet, they have all taken different career and education paths.

Blake Wilson’s parents built their home down a dirt road in the small community of Highland Home, Alabama1. Highland Home is, essentially, a few miles of pavement that stretches across Highway 331 and a few dirt roads that branch off into the woods. Stephen, the 29-year-old father, spent two and a half years at a paramedic school. He then continued on, to work at an ambulance company called FAITH. His job sometimes keeps him away from home for a day or two at a time. Kerry, the 25-year-old mother, graduated high school and moved on to an office assistant job at Commercial Doors in Montgomery, Alabama.

Bradey’s parents, Jason and Amy Peavy, took somewhat similar career paths. The 28-year-old father works near home at Rehab Associates in Greenville, Alabama. Jason earned his master’s degree in Health Promotion at Middle Tennessee State, after completing his bachelor’s at the University of West Alabama. Amy (28 years old) also got her degree at West Alabama, but she took an associate’s degree in Nursing. She works as a nurse at Baptist Hospital in Montgomery. She will be attending school once again, in the spring, to get her Nurse Practitioner’s degree. Jason and Amy live in a larger city, Greenville2, than the Wilsons do. Here, the local YMCA offers a preschool day center for toddlers, in which Bradey attends when his mother is working. The local term used for it is “The Y.” Back in Highland Home, the first level of preschool is the Pre-K program Highland Home School offers, in which children can enter when they are four.

Looking back at my initial research questions, I notice the focus was on family life and other aspects of the environment in which the toddlers are exposed. I still feel very strongly that those initial questions are the backbone of my ethnographic study. After observing each family for several entire days, I began to notice that literacy habits in toddlers stem from within the home. The parents are very aware that they live in a society where strong reading and writing skills are fundamental to functioning in that society. Although both of the parents believe being literate is important, they each have different ideas of why it is important. Both fathers, Stephen and Jason, believe that literacy is vital because of educational goals, those that further knowledge in a particular field of study. Amy is at the opposite end of the spectrum, which she clearly illustrates by her daily fiction reading. She has read several books, mostly fiction, since I began my study of these families, and she has a membership at the local library. She holds firm in her opinion that literacy skills are useful for entertainment and pleasure just as well as education. She believes that a person must be literate to function in the world. “You have to know how to read to even drive,” she stated as an example of how one needs to be literate to function in today’s society.

Given the value of literacy presented within these homes, my research focuses on the materials the toddlers interact with within that environment. The questions I have prepared break down their environment in order to answer the critical issue of how it prepares them to enter a literate society.

  • Why do Bradey and Blake love to read?

  • What role does technology play in the effort to promote literacy?

  • How are the literate interactions with children dispersed among parents?

  • How are these two families similar / different in how they present their child to a literate society?

While I was growing up, as a toddler, I came from a very similar background as the parents and toddlers I am researching. My parents stressed the idea of reading and writing to me. However, I did not have the vast amount of material available to these toddlers. There was not a bookshelf filled with more books than a kid can read or a battery-operated-alphabet laptop in my house. I do remember being able to write the alphabet and a few words before going to kindergarten. I am only eighteen years older than Blake and Bradey, and the literate world has changed. Each toddler has a computer in their home, whereas my first computer did not arrive until I got to college. There wasn’t a preschool that I could attend to become more literate before I reached kindergarten. These toddlers have these resources, and they need it because society is much more literate than it was eighteen years ago. Schools and employers are stressing reading and writing skills even more today.

I have a couple of reasons I chose to look into this particular community. The first being, I baby-sat my younger brother when I was in high school and he was around the age of six or seven. I always had a tough time getting him to do his homework, predominantly in his reading and spelling assignments. However, I could put a video game with any amount of reading involved in it, and he would play it for most of the night without getting up. I usually check in every week or so, with my mother, to see how well my younger siblings are doing in school. My six-year-old sister usually makes As and Bs, while my brother is typically slacking. Growing up in the same home, each child has begun to take different educational paths. My next reason for looking at this community is for my personal gain. When I become a father, I would like to prepare my children for a literate society.

My focus centers on how toddlers interact with their environment and how that environment prepares them for a literate society. Yet, how is this environment advancing these toddlers’ pre-formal schooling literacy? Why is there a conception that children need to be literate at an age where they haven’t yet mastered the tricycle? Will they not get educated in the ways of literacy when they enter elementary school? In hopes to answer these questions, I have narrowed my focus in this study down to two key participants: Bradey Peavy and Blake Wilson.

The Wilsons

While observing Blake on my third stay with the family, he pulled his Uncle Jonathan (he calls him Uncle J) into his world of literacy. Blake takes Jonathan in his bedroom to teach him his “lessons.” Blake’s lessons are a device his mother uses to teach him his alphabet at night. She does this in order to prepare him for future enrollment into Highland Home’s Pre-K program. They typically take a yellow notepad and practice writing a set of letters for the lesson. The night before, Blake was going through the letters “A, B, and C” sitting on the floor with his mother. Now he was taking Jonathan into his own personal classroom. There amongst the strewn-about toys set a table no higher than a one-foot, and that was where they were to begin.

“Do it like me told you,” Blake was instructing Jonathan to trace his invisible letter he had drawn with a wooden crayon on the table. Jonathan traces the lines drawn by the toddler without a fault. “That ain’t like what me told you.”

Kerry mentioned at one point that Blake used to refer to himself as, “Blake does this, or Blake does that.” Now the toddler has moved on to “Me does this, and me does that.”

Jonathan, having fun participating in Blake’s lessons, tells him to draw an A.

“You draw it first,” the three year old commanded.

Losing interest in this game of tracing quickly, the toddler reaches for a toy laptop and says, “Me gone do my ABCs on the ’puter.”

He takes the electronic laptop and pursues to punch keys at random, while Jonathan tries to get him back to his lessons.

Blake then pulls out a book with farm animals on it, and opens it to a page with a red barn on it. He quickly grabs his red wooden crayon and proclaims, “Me gone color the barn red.” He scribbles with invisible vigor at the barn until he is satisfied of his artistic work. “Read this to me.”

Jonathan reads aloud to the toddler for almost a page before he looks to me, “What’s this word: F-O-A-L?”

“Foal, I never heard of it.”

“I guess it’s a baby horse,” glancing back down to the pictures on the page with a family of horses locked behind a fence.

Blake sits in his white underwear with red lining and his Montgomery Biscuits baseball t-shirt and listens attentively to the finishing of the book. Then he grabs the next closest book, Disney’s Bubbles of the House, and asks his Uncle J to read it also.

Moving on from the stage of book reading, he and his uncle build structures with the wooden rectangles (the ones he uses for crayons) going back and forth destroying the pretend houses. From a line almost straight out of The Three Little Pigs, Blake exclaims with a puffed out chest, “Me will HUFF and me will PUFF and me will blow your house up!” Jonathan and I both laugh to the reference to classic children’s literature and the slight variation of the line.

Jonathan, having spent a considerable amount of time with the toddler needed to leave. Not wanting to let go of this opportunity to spend a little quality time with Uncle J, after the goodbye kiss he asks him, “Will you read one book and you can go?”

“I’ll read one book,” Jonathan did not want to disappoint his nephew.

Blake walks back to his shelf, which is about four-feet wide with three shelves covered entirely in children’s reading material. “Hellooo books!” He pulls off a book and lets five or six others crash on the floor.

The book was about a caterpillar. The caterpillar’s hologram eyes beamed through the round cutout holes on the front cover. Then it was over as quick as it had started. The book was finished and it was time for Jonathan to go.

“Read one more?” Then another came, “Uncle J, will you read one more?” Then within twenty minutes or so, Jonathan had read a book about a fireboat and various books about animals.

Blake threw another book on the bed, as he asked the read one more question again. Jonathan shaking his head was trying to protest to the toddler who was yelling, “Another book and another book and another book and another book!”

Blake dropped a box of four Christian children’s books on the bed. Jonathan read to him the story of Jonah and then Noah and the Ark.

“After you get through, you gonna read all these books,” the toddler commanded during the reading about Noah.

Jonathan explained to him that he could not read all of the books; he had to finish them over a period of time. Now, desperate to get out (having previously made plans), he turned the toddler’s television on to the correct cartoon channel.

In the living room, Mary Anne (Stephen’s mother) and Judy (Kerry and Jonathan’s mother) sit, one on the loveseat and the other in the recliner. Mary Anne notes that Jonathan has so much patience with Blake.

“I guess he’ll have to,” they both let out a chuckle with Judy’s remark.

Jonathan is seeking a degree in elementary education at Auburn University in Montgomery. This will be his life’s work. Teaching young children is one of his career goals, and this plays a major role in Blake’s literacy development, particularly when Jonathan gets a chance to stop by his nephew’s home.

These visits are as crucial in Blake’s literacy development as his mother teaching him his lessons. A large part of it is due to the amount of time spent with Blake. Each family member uses his or her own methods to promote Blake in his pursuit of becoming more literate. Jonathan, being a future elementary school teacher, enjoys this pursuit as much as the toddler does. It helps when the family member enjoys acts of literacy as much as the child does, because it helps the child grow into a highly literate society. If the child sees that his parents, grandparents, or his beloved Uncle J enjoying literate activities, there is a good chance that he will enjoy them also.

Family togetherness is part of what makes the Wilson household so unique in today’s bustling society, where many parents and other family members spend less and less time together. Kerry’s parents live a couple of miles down the dirt road, while Stephen’s parents are only a few yards away. Everyone in this close family environment plays their part in influencing Blake and Blain.

One Sunday, while staying with the Wilsons, I attended church with them. Before leaving the house, Blake grabs a red and white striped tote bag to put his toys. While placing them carefully inside, one by one, he names them off, “This is Thomas. This is Percy.” Then he continues with Murdock, Salty, and Toby, all parts of trains from his favorite television program, Thomas the Tank Engine. He would watch the show religiously on Sunday, if it were not for church. At least he could take the entire cast along in his satchel.

Sitting on the floor, between pews, Blake attempts to spell his name with wooden cubes. “Me spelled my name,” the toddler raises his voice in excitement.

The cubes spelled out I-Y-G-H. The important factor here is not his inability to spell his name correctly, but his interaction with the alphabet. He sees that there are these things called letters, and interacts with them. Blake then takes $28 from the church members on his pew to put in the offering plate. He insists that he takes this job. After the offering, the pastor tells a story about a marine, at war in a foreign country. The soldier gets lost in a cave, and manages to survive through his faith.

The Wilsons usually forego Sunday school, and only attend the church service. Along with Kerry, Stephen, Blake, and Blain, in the pews are the grandparents and his Uncle J. Blake’s life is very family-oriented. Most activities participated in are done as an entire family. From ball games and church services to dining and knowing the theme to each Thomas the Tank Engine episode, the family does it together.

I lived next door to Kerry, Jonathan, Judy, and Richard (47-year-old grandfather) for about four years, and I may have learned a few things in those years, because Richard never lacks for a story to tell or a set of ears to listen. Blake may inherit this craft as he continues to grow.

When Richard, Judy, and Charles (Charlie, the great-grandfather, most of us call him Granddaddy) stop by after picking up orders from a local restaurant, It Don’t Matter Family Restaurant, Richard goes into storytelling mode. His most interesting story of the night, out of many, The Pop Cycle Man, is a story in which a man crashes his car into a bridge railing. Part of the railing ripped off and punched its way through the bottom of the car, up into the man’s torso, all the way through the top of his back—Pop Cycle Man.

“We talked about his family…At times he was depressed…It was surprising how calm he was.” Richard had talked to the Pop Cycle Man for two hours before his team got him out of the car. However, on the helicopter ride out, he bled to death.

These are the kinds of stories the Blake will hear growing up. Some of them are heart wrenching, some comical, a few grotesque, and some are just factual history of the world (Richard’s favorite television station is the History Channel). Whatever his story may be, it is always educational.

A few minutes after The Pop Cycle Man, Kerry and Blake open a book called Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. This book is very interactive between the reader and the listener, in that the listener gets more involved in the process of reading. Blake gets to look for “Goldbug” on every page as Kerry reads aloud to him. Goldbug, a miniature gold bug, hides in an obscure place amongst the “cars and trucks and things that go.” With each new page he exclaims, “Wherrr’s Goldbug?” Blake usually finds Goldbug before Kerry can finish the excerpt on each page, and proudly shouts, “Therrr’ he is!” Activities like this one gets the toddler involved in the process of reading. He is having fun looking for Goldbug while listening to the words read aloud. Blake seems thoroughly enjoys literate activities with his family.

I chose to present excerpts about Blake that involved more than his mother and father, because his entire family plays such an important role. Since they see so much of one another, the child will undoubtedly learn from them as he grows.

The Peavys

“Lightning is when God takes a picture of us,” Bradey tells me while in the kitchen/dining area of their house as a storm begins. I sit on the bar stool beside the 3 year old after he demands I remove myself from his personal stool at the counter. Amy, the 28-year-old mother, assures the toddler that he is correct and hands over a bowl of salsa with a bag of tortilla chips to Bradey.

Set at the end of Cloverdale Lane in Greenville, Alabama is the Peavy’s house. Lining the street is a row of houses running parallel to one another along the sides until it rounds off into a cul-de-sac. The neighborhood looks like a white-picket-fence version of a 1950s sitcom with an entirely white cast. I almost expected to see the daily newspaper thrown onto each driveway my first morning there. The neighborhood does include a multilingual Slovakian family, who are friends with the Peavys. Next door to their house is also a Korean family. Each of these families has children around the age of Bradey, an environment that could prove to be useful to the Peavy children as they grow. Greenville is not a particularly large city, but it is much larger than Highland Home and has a few extra resources available to its inhabitants. It did just have its first Super Wal-Mart built a year ago.

The house is open. The living room, dining area, and kitchen are within view of one another along with a few lights spread across the ceiling. They are those little round lights controlled with a dimmer, evenly placed on a 15-foot or so high ceiling. In Bradey’s bedroom, lining the bed are Tigger (a character from the television show Winnie the Pooh) sheets with the exclamations “Jump!!!”, “Run!!!”, and “Bounce!!!” Flung over the top is a Spiderman sleeping bag. On the bed’s headboard is a miniature Louisville Slugger with “Bradey Peavy” inscribed. Covering the floor is a multitude of various toys in which I have to tiptoe through to make sure I don’t crunch some plastic bits. Concealing a large portion of the floor is a rug with a city and streets used for pushing cars around by hand and all-out city wars with Lego’s latest version of bionic men. The bookshelf, the Holy Grail of both Bradey and Blake’s bedrooms, is packed with children’s books and various coloring and activity books. The shelf covers all the books essential to a toddler’s life, ranging from a collection of Dr. Seuss to Spiderman coloring books. It is a typical three-year-old bedroom. In a stack in the corner is a set of panels with alphabetic letters on each side that must be placed together to form a puzzle.

On the bookshelf there is a book called ABC: A Lift-the-Flap Alphabetic Book. Each letter of the alphabet sits on a flap on its own page. Flipping up the flap reveals an object resembling the letter. The purpose of the book is for children to learn to associate letters with objects that they would see in daily life.

Amy reads fiction, nonfiction, and whatever else that seems interesting, though she reminds me that she is totally against drama. The first night I stayed there, she was reading while Bradey fiddled with toys in the living room floor.

“It’s dark,” exclaims the toddler, with more excitement than most children seeing that it almost bedtime do.

Amy concludes that it is dark.

“It’s Trick-or-Treat time!”

The mother takes the toddler into her bedroom and hands over the 4-month-old Archer. I hear her reading his favorite book to him, A Trick or a Treat? A Not-Too-Scary Window Surprise Book.

Archer continuously wriggles in my arms annunciating words that are foreign to me. A few minutes later, he grows unhappy with my baby faces and goo-goos and ga-gas. Exiting the bedroom to rescue the near screaming Archer, Amy leaves Bradey calling for her and she asks me to go see what he wants.

“Will you read to me?”

I sit on the bed as the toddler reopens the little orange book with a cutout witch on the cover. While I begin to read, Bradey recites a few key words from the book and points out what is going on, on each page.

Laughing on each page turn, he makes sure to note, “That’s not a witch.” Then he follows by exclaiming, “Oh, what a RELIEF!” He has almost memorized the entire book, word for word. I wonder whether he had memorized other books, but I never saw that he had. Nevertheless, he has read this particular book enough times to memorize the entire thing, a not so little feat.

Bradey has a unique learning technique that his parents have managed to tie into the way he discovers new words. This method has aided him in his learning process. Through one observation, I noticed the use of this system between Bradey and Jason, in which Jason made a point to show me that Bradey could spell “Bama.”

“B…A…” the toddler managed to squeeze out the first two letters.

“What does Mommy start with?”

“M…”

“What does Archer start with?”

“A!”

I noticed this learning technique used several times in various situations during observation. Mostly, it was used when Bradey came across a word that he saw written somewhere. Other times he used this method to cite words that he had already learned so his father could “show-off” the toddler’s knowledge of the English language. Whichever the case, Bradey was actively using his knowledge of the alphabet to learn new words from the use of names or words that he already knew.

In another instance with his mother, Bradey picked up an elephant trail game map from Arby’s. The first thing to come from the toddler’s mouth after looking over the sheet of paper was, “What’s this say?” He was pointing to a spot on the map.

His mother replied, “B for bamboo forest.”

“B, like Bradey.”

They continued on, he pointing out spots on the map, she telling him words, followed by an annunciation of a letter that corresponded with the first letter of the new word. This seemed to be the system that they utilized the most frequent to teach their son new words, and it appeared to be successful. Learning techniques like the method the Peavys use help children develop their literacy skills and prepare them for formal education, setting the children up for a world in which they will need to be highly literate.

Amy tells me, when asked what is important for her children to know before entering the educational system, “They need confidence. They need to know that they can learn.” She wants Bradey and Archer to be able to step into school and be prepared to learn. Therefore, knowing that they can learn is just as important as the act of learning itself. To be literate in today’s society is to be “functional,” she states. All things in society center around its people being literate.

Amy noted that I “always miss the good stuff” when I walked in just as Bradey was putting up his set of Curious George books one day. Amy is always willing to tell me how much Bradey has learned, what activities he had completed, and what books he had read between my observations. He had just read the books by pointing out what was going on in the pictures. He had acquired, at that point, a strong enough knowledge of the English language to make it through the books on his own. Through reading along with his mother and watching her read her own books, Bradey was seeking to enjoy the activity of reading by his self.

Even though Jason views literacy as something that is for career and educational goals, he takes part in enhancing Bradey’s literate life. He engages with the toddler in ways that are more active. He fills in most of the activity books and plays with electronic devices with Bradey, while Amy usually reads to him. Both parents play their own role in helping their son become literate.

Conclusion

My research has inevitably left me with more questions than I had when I began. I could not include all of my notes from my observations because of the time and length limits set on this project. The excerpts I have presented here cannot convey exactly how literate Blake and Bradey have become or will become. Each child is so different in how he learns, but they both have a yearning to be literate. Every day they are absorbing new material and growing more knowledgeable. To conclude this study, I have separated each of my research questions in order to answer them fully.

Why do Bradey and Blake love to read?

Through several days of observation I have learned that the main reason each toddler loves reading is because of their environment. Each parent, in his or her own way, stresses the importance of learning. They may not always have the time to read children’s literature aloud to them, but they offer other materials that help the toddler to learn. Bradey owns a device called the Leap Pad in which he can learn by himself. His father also uses the device along with him. Blake owns several toy computers that teach numbers and letters. Bradey’s classes at The Y help prepare him for formal education, while Blake’s lessons are training him for the Pre-K program. The most important factor is that the parents are aware that their children will need to be literate to be functional in today’s society, and are actively preparing them for the educational system.

What role does technology play in the effort to promote literacy?

With the help of toy laptops and Leap Pads, the toddlers have various technological resources that expand their literacy. Blake owns a set of Thomas the Tank Engine video cassettes that offers their own educational instruction. His parents have also made him and his brother their own CDs with their favorite songs and other songs that have their names mentioned within them. In his learning, Bradey is a little less technologically advanced, but not so that it deters from his desire to learn. He owns more activity books than Blake does. Each family owns a computer and several television sets, tools that will inevitably play a larger role in the toddler’s literate lives. For now, the television is mainly used for cartoons and Power Rangers Lightspeed, but the occasional educational program is slipped in there sometimes.

How are the literate interactions with children dispersed among parents?

The mothers are generally the parents that read aloud from children’s books to Blake and Bradey. They enjoy the reading the books to their children because it makes the toddlers happy. Although, the fathers are not totally absent in their toddler’s literate lives. Blake watches Stephen use a laptop, so he asks for his own. Stephen does not seem to play as great a role as Kerry, probably due to his 24-hour work shifts at FAITH. Jason is more active in how he interacts with Bradey. He usually writes with Bradey within his activity books and plays on the Leap Pad with Bradey. Amy and Jason both share the workload in teaching their children, but in separate ways. Amy performs the reading activities, because she enjoys reading as an activity herself. Jason likes to feel like he is involved in an activity. Each child seeks to mimic their parents’ activities, whether it is reading, writing, or typing on a laptop.

How are these two families similar / different in how they present their child to a literate society?

This question was the hardest to answer because of the toddlers’ desire to be literate and my personal growing connection with the families over the course of this study. Therefore, I tried to look at this question objectively. Each family wants their children to be fully functional in a literate society, yet this society is presented to the toddlers in both similar and different ways. Bradey has more resources available to him outside of home because of his enrollment in the YMCA preschool program, and both of his parents are more interactive in his reading and writing skills. He also displays exceptional speaking skills for a three year old, much clearer and more precise than what I have been accustomed to. Blake has more technological equipment such as TVs, toy laptops, CDs, and other media that teach him to learn. Sometimes these technological learning tools take away from the parents’ interactivity with him, and he has to learn on his own. However, his family is a little more close-knit with his grandparents and his Uncle J each putting forth an effort to be a part of the toddler’s life. Both toddlers own a vast amount of books that the parents read to them regularly, in which each child has complete access. The Wilsons are more technologically advanced, while the Peavys generally use devices such as children’s books and activity books to promote literacy. Even though each family presents their children to literacy differently, they both are aware that it has to be presented.

Final Word

My biggest concern with this study is that it is unfinished because there is much more involved in a toddler’s life than I could present here. There is the off time between the acts of literacy that I had to sit through just to catch a glimpse of the actual act of one of the toddlers opening a book or learning his lessons. Then there are multitudes of various activities the toddlers take part in while the parents are not overseeing them. I have many notes that I could not include in the final draft. Each toddler has many writing examples I had hoped to attain, but they were rather possessive of their creations. I could not answer the question of how my younger siblings are so different in their education levels, but I do know that a child’s literacy habits need to be nurtured at a very young age. I have acquired a few techniques to teach my future children through my research. Bradey’s method of matching a word to the first letter of a word he already knows could prove to be useful in preparing my own children to be ready for a literate world. Putting together a mixed CD for them (like the Wilsons) could interest them in musical literacy. Educational television programs, toy laptops, and the standard children’s book (with its bright colors and bold letters) are all devices that will undoubtedly be of some use.

I have learned that literacy habits begin from within the home. It is a family’s responsibility to prepare their children to be literate. Both families have their similarities and their differences in how they present their toddlers to a literate society, but ultimately do what is required of them. By giving them an early start on reading and writing, they are preparing their children.

Footnotes

  1. Highland Home, Alabama - population: 1,177 - http://factfinder.census.gov 

  2. Greenville, Alabama - population: 14,012 - http://factfinder.census.gov