Emergent literacy skills among children herding cattle as a foundation to teaching initial literacy in schools of Chipata district.

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Tembo, Godfridah
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The University of Zambia
The purpose of the research was to establish if emergent literacy skills which children herding cattle come with to formal schooling could be used as a foundation to teaching initial literacy and numeracy.The present study sought to identify what emergent literacy skills (ELS) children herding cattle have that could be used as a foundation to teaching initial literacy and numeracy in schools. Clay’s theory of Emergent Literacy in line with that of teaching initial literacy and numeracy to children guided this study. The theory that children are tabular rasa as they come from their homes has been disputed by many psychologists and emergent literacy theorists such as Clay. The study employed qualitative methodology and a case study design was used. Purposive sampling was used to identify 40 children herding cattle and two grade one teachers. Data collection protocol involved the unstructured interview guide, focus group discussion guide as well as observations. Data was analyzed by using themes which emerged from the research questions. The findings of the study revealed that the children herding cattle acquired emergent literacy skills before starting formal schooling such as drawing, counting, identification of colour, size, and even shape, naming with phonological and phonemic awareness. The study also revealed that storytelling enhances narrative and listening comprehension skills. The children also acquired the awareness that songs compose values, attitudes as well as respect to elders. The study further established that the ELS could actually be used as a stepping stone to learning initial literacy once such children were in formal school. This study also revealed that the teaching of “reading readiness” to the first graders should be done with care and consideration taking into account ELS children like those who herd cattle before entering formal schooling. This shows that children learn to read and write gradually, rather than at a particular point in time and the herding cattle activity is a huge school full of emergent literacy skills. The study recommends that teachers of the Grade 1 take into account the emergent literacy skills among the cattle herders such as counting, naming and identification skills to be used as a foundation to teaching of initial literacy once children are in school. The Ministry of General Education (MoGE) needs to recognise and avail such findings of researches like this one to the awareness of curriculum planners so that they may include emergent literacy skills acquired by children herding cattle as a foundation to the teaching of initial literacy.
Thesis of Masters of Education in Language and Literacy