This paper presents an account of the literacy activities engaged in by the parents of 29 children around the time that the children were about to start school at Key Stage 1. Fifteen of the children were reading fluently before they began school and the remaining fourteen were matched for age, sex, receptive vocabulary scores, pre-school group attended and socio-economic family status, but not reading fluently. In order to ascertain that the fluent readers were not simply coming from homes where literacy activities were more in evidence, parents were asked to report on their own literacy activities. The data obtained indicated that there were no systematic differences in the activities of the two sets of parents. They also showed that there was a considerable amount of literacy activity evident in the homes. It is argued that, whilst the home environment is highly instrumental in nurturing literacy development, it is not enough to account for precocious reading ability.
Learning to read and write is a basic skill that unfortunately not everybody acquires sufficiently. Lack of teachers and time in school are some of the reasons, but in addition the enormous rise in informational activities due to the Internet and other information technology-enabled opportunities has made literacy skills increasingly important to ever more people. This means literacy education must be improved so more children in the world get better chances. In order to contribute to developing better methods for learning to read and write in early years this study tests a new method developed to improve reading and writing learning in early ages. The ICT (Information and communication technologies) supported “Integrated Write to Learn” (iWTR) method lets children in 1st grade use computers and other ICT tools to write texts and subsequently discuss and refine them together with class mates and teachers. Handwriting is postponed to 2nd grade. While the traditional method requires students to go through two development processes in parallel, a cognitive (learning to read and) a motor (learning to write with a pencil), iWTR works with one process at a time, first cognitive development, then (from grade 2) motor skills training. iWTR extends previous WTR methods by more social work methods using a web site and peer comment for providing social meaning and feedback.
The method was tested using two test groups and two control groups (total n = 87) by systematically measuring performance in reading and writing using standard tests in combination with observations and student evaluation to assess social and individual effects of work methods.
The results show that while reading skills were improved considerably the biggest improvement concerned writing skills. Students in the test group wrote longer texts with better structure, clearer content, and a more elaborate language.