The acquistion of early reading skills: The influence of the Home Environment in Lusaka, Zambia
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Reading is essential for children’s educational success and communication in a technologically advancing society. This position has provoked researchers to investigate the process of reading acquisition. Although a number of factors inhibit and facilitate the process of its acquisition, many studies in Zambia focus on the schools, classroom and the language of instruction. Hence, this study explored other contexts that might be responsible for influencing the process. Addressed in the present study are factors that influence acquisition of reading skills (orthographic awareness and decoding) in the home environment. The present study was part of larger project called Reading Support for Zambian children (RESUZ). The aim of the RESUZ project was to explore different factors that would possibly influence acquisition of first graders’ reading skills. The design of the RESUZ project was experimental and recruited 576 children from 42 schools in Lusaka Urban. For the present study, a mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) design was utilized to investigate the contribution of home environment factors to reading skill acquisition. Seventy-two first grade learners from nine schools were purposefully selected from the 42 RESUZ schools. The home environments for 72 learners were assessed using a structured home literacy questionnaire. Additionally, a semi structured interview guide was used for the qualitative inquiry with few parents (n=12). Reading skills were assessed through orthographic awareness and decoding competence tests that were developed locally by the RESUZ team. Children were assessed at two different time points in their first year of schooling. viii Hierarchical regression analyses showed that children’s home environments were experienced differently and significantly impacted children’s reading skills. These home environment factors included family possessions (electricity, stove, television, running water, flushable toilet and a car). Another factor that significantly explained variation in children’s reading skills was parental reading attitudes. Parents who favorably ascribed to reading as an important activity in the home had children performing better on reading skills. Further, results showed that reading materials predicted orthographic awareness and not decoding. With family literacy activities, children who experienced more literacy interactions in the home produced significantly higher scores than their peers. Although results based on parents’ and teachers’ views revealed weak home-school relations, it was found that affirmative parental views on the school positively impacted children’s scores on the reading outcomes. Differing views on parental involvement between teachers and parents also emerged. Further, qualitative inquiry confirmed that high achieving learners experienced a more literate home environment than low achieving learners.
- Education