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Pivotal Research in Early Literacy: Foundational Studies and Current Practices
Cassano, Christina M. and Susan M. Dougherty (Eds) | Foreword by Joanne Knapp-PhiloAfterwords by Heidi Anne E. Mesmer and M
The Guilford Press / Softcover / 2018-07-01 / 1462536174
Language and Literacy
reg price: $44.50 our price: $ 40.05 (may be subject to change)
326 pages
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This reader-friendly text examines the key foundational studies in early literacy. It addresses such essential questions as how research informs current practices and where the field still needs to go to provide the best learning opportunities for all children. Each chapter describes the methods and findings of one to five seminal studies, critically assesses their long-term impact on practice and policy, and offers takeaways for the classroom. Leading authorities—including several authors of the original pivotal studies—cover 12 essential aspects of language development, literacy development, and home and community literacy experiences in PreK–2.


“What a delightful addition to the field of early literacy! There has been an explosion of knowledge about the emergence of literacy and the language abilities that support it. In this volume, leading scholars highlight and summarize seminal articles while situating them in relationship to conceptual advances and controversies in the field. Both new and senior scholars will find this highly readable volume enjoyable and illuminating. I will use it as a supplementary text for my course on language, literacy, and diversity.”

—David K. Dickinson, EdD, Margaret Cowan Chair of Education and Associate Dean for Research, Peabody College of Education, Vanderbilt University

“This is a welcome addition to my professional library. The book spans critical issues in early literacy—such as language development, literacy development and instruction, and home experiences—and serves as an invaluable reference for scholars and graduate students, as well as early literacy leaders. The editors' conceptual framework provides a historical perspective for each topic. Readers can dive right into these accessible chapters to explore the 'why' behind current practice as they unpack each topic’s research lineage.”

—Latisha Hayes, PhD, Director, McGuffey Reading Center; Associate Professor and Elementary Education Program Coordinator, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

“A 'must read' for researchers and scholars in the field of early literacy. For those new to the field, this volume presents a clear, concise historical view of the path that has led to our present-day theories, research foci, and classroom practices. For veterans, it offers new insights into the key pivots in perspectives over the past several decades. The list of chapter authors is a virtual walk along the Hall of Fame of literacy research, and each has expertly curated the research in her or his respective area. The combination of coverage of seminal studies with authors' arguments regarding their pivotal nature makes this book a great choice for courses and professional learning in early literacy research.”

—Jessica L. Hoffman, PhD, instructional coach, Hamilton County Educational Service Center, Ohio


Introduction, Susan M. Dougherty and Christina M. Cassano
I. Early Language Development

1. Now You’re Talking: Vocabulary Development in the Home Context, Lillian R. Masek, Molly E. Scott, Rebecca Dore, Rufan Luo, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Hart and Risley (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children

- Pan, Rowe, Singer, and Snow (2005). Maternal Correlates of Growth in Toddler Vocabulary Production in Low-Income Families

- Tomasello and Farrar (1986). Joint Attention and Early Language

2. Pivotal Theory and Research Affecting Emergent Bilingual Children’s Language and Literacy Achievement, Theresa A. Roberts

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Cummins (1979). Linguistic Interdependence and the Educational Development of Bilingual Children

- Dulay and Burt (1974). Errors and Strategies in Child Second Language Acquisition

- Hoover and Gough (1990). The Simple View of Reading

- Krashen (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition

- Willig (1985). A Meta-Analysis of Selected Studies on the Effectiveness of Bilingual Education

II. Literacy Development in the Early Years

3. Writing in the Early Years, Judith A. Schickedanz

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Durkin (1966). Children Who Read Early: Two Longitudinal Studies

- Hildreth (1936). Developmental Sequences in Name Writing

- Read (1975). Children’s Categorization of Speech Sounds in English

4. Reconceptualizing Alphabet Learning and Instruction, Marcia Invernizzi and Jordan Buckrop

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Mason (1980). When Do Children Begin to Read?: An Exploration of Four Year Old Children’s Letter and Word Reading Competencies

- Treiman and Broderick (1998). What’s in a Name: Children’s Knowledge about the Letters in Their Own Names

- Treiman, Tincoff, Rodriguez, Mouzaki, and Francis (1998). The Foundations of Literacy: Learning the Sounds of Letters

5. A Close and Careful Look at Phonological Awareness, Christina M. Cassano

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Juel (1988). Learning to Read and Write: A Longitudinal Study of 54 Children from First through Fourth Grades

- Liberman, Shankweiler, Fischer, and Carter (1974). Explicit Syllable and Phoneme Segmentation in the Young Child

- Lundberg, Frost, and Petersen (1988). Effects of an Extensive Program for Stimulating Phonological Awareness in Preschool Children

6. The Role of Word Recognition in Beginning Reading: Getting the Words off the Page, Ruth M. Wharton-McDonald

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Adams (1990). Beginning to Read: Learning and Thinking about Print

- Share (1995). Phonological Recoding and Self-Teaching: Sine Qua Non of Reading Acquisition

- Stanovich (1980). Toward an Interactive-Compensatory Model of Individual Differences in the Development of Reading Fluency

7. Engagement, Motivation, Self-Regulation, and Literacy Development in Early Childhood, Alisa Hindin

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Blair (2002). School Readiness: Integrating Cognition and Emotion in a Neurobiological Conceptualization of Children’s Functioning at School Entry

- Guthrie and Wigfield (2000). Engagement and Motivation in Reading

- Spira, Bracken, and Fischel (2005). Predicting Improvement after First-Grade Reading Difficulties: The Effects of Oral Language, Emergent Literacy, and Behavior Skills

III. Home and Community Literacy Experiences of Children

8. Starting Them Young: How the Shift from Reading Readiness to Emergent Literacy Has Influenced Preschool Literacy Education, William H. Teale, Emily Brown Hoffman, Colleen E. Whittingham, and Kathleen A. Paciga

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Almy (1949). Children's experiences prior to first grade and success in beginning reading

- Teale and Sulzby (1986). Emergent Literacy: Writing and Reading

9. Pivotal Research in Storybook Reading, Molly F. Collins

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Cochran-Smith (1984). The Making of a Reader

- Dickinson and Smith (1994). Long-Term Effects of Preschool Teachers’ Book Readings on Low-Income Children’s Vocabulary and Story Comprehension

- Whitehurst, Falco, Lonigan, Fischel, DeBaryshe, Valdez-Menchaca, and Caulfield (1988). Accelerating Language Development through Picture Book Reading

10. The Impact of Pivotal Research on the Role of Play in Early Literacy Development, Muriel K. Rand and Lesley Mandel Morrow

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Morrow and Rand (1991). Promoting Literacy During Play by Designing Early Childhood Classroom Environments

- Neuman and Roskos (1990). Play, Print, and Purpose: Enriching Play Environments for Literacy Development

- Pellegrini (1985). The Relations Between Symbolic Play and Literate Behavior: A Review and Critique of the Empirical Literature

11. Family Literacy: Is It Really All About Storybook Reading?, Susan M. Dougherty and Jeanne R. Paratore

Pivotal studies discussed:

- Bus, van IJzendoorn, and Pellegrini (1995). Joint Book Reading Makes for Success in Learning to Read: A Meta-analysis on Intergenerational Transmission of Literacy

- Heath (1983). Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms

- Purcell-Gates (1996). Stories, Coupons, and the “TV Guide”: Relationships between Home Literacy Experiences and Emergent Literacy Knowledge

- Scarborough and Dobrich (1994). On the Efficacy of Reading to Preschoolers

- Sénéchal, Lefevre, Thomas, and Daley (1998). Differential Effects of Home Literacy Experiences on the Development of Oral and Written Language

12. Enhancing Children’s Access to Print, Susan B. Neuman and Donna Celano

Pivotal study discussed:

- Neuman and Celano (2001). Access to Print in Low-Income and Middle-Income Communities: An Ecological Study of Four Neighborhoods

Afterword: Pivotal Research in Early Literacy: Lessons Learned and a Call to Action, Heidi Anne E. Mesmer and Melissa Rose-McCully


About the Editors:

Christina M. Cassano, EdD, is Associate Professor of Childhood Education and Care at Salem State University in Massachusetts, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in early literacy and language development, reading foundations, and child development, and provides professional development on language and literacy for preschool teachers. A former kindergarten teacher and literacy specialist, she is the current president of the Literacy Development in Young Children special interest group of the International Literacy Association. Dr. Cassano’s research interests include the study and support of vocabulary and concept knowledge in preschoolers, using science–literacy interventions in Head Start, and examining the relationship between vocabulary and phonological awareness. She has coauthored several publications on early literacy development and research.

Susan M. Dougherty, EdD, is Assistant Professor of Literacy Education in the College of Education and Human Services at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy and has a particular interest in preparing preservice and future literacy specialists to support children who find literacy learning difficult. Dr. Dougherty began her career in education as an elementary teacher in New Jersey and is currently on the board of the New Jersey Literacy Association. Her areas of research interest include parent–preschooler talk, family literacy, and early literacy and science learning. She has published articles and book chapters in these areas and coauthored the book Engaging Readers: Supporting All Students in Knowledge-Driven Instruction, 4–8.


Jordan Buckrop, PhD, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Christina M. Cassano, EdD, Department of Childhood Education and Care, Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts

Donna Celano, PhD, School of Arts and Sciences, LaSalle University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Molly F. Collins, EdD, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Rebecca Dore, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

Susan M. Dougherty, EdD, College of Education and Human Services, Rider University, Lawrenceville, New Jersey

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, School of Education, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

Alisa Hindin, EdD, Department of Educational Studies, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

Emily Brown Hoffman, PhD, Department of Elementary Education, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana

Marcia Invernizzi, PhD, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Rufan Luo, PhD, Department of Psychology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden, New Jersey

Lillian R. Masek, MAT, Infant and Child Laboratory, Temple University, Ambler, Pennsylvania

Heidi Anne E. Mesmer, PhD, School of Education, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

Lesley Mandel Morrow, PhD, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Susan B. Neuman, EdD, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, New York, New York

Kathleen A. Paciga, PhD, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Jeanne R. Paratore, EdD, School of Education, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

Muriel K. Rand, EdD, Department of Early Childhood Education, New Jersey City University, Jersey City, New Jersey

Theresa A. Roberts, PhD, Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, Oregon

M. M. Rose-McCully, PhD, School of Education, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

Judith A. Schickedanz, PhD (Emerita), School of Education, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

Molly E. Scott, Infant and Child Laboratory, Temple University, Ambler, Pennsylvania

William H. Teale, EdD (deceased), College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Ruth M. Wharton-McDonald, PhD, Department of Education, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire

Colleen E. Whittingham, PhD, Cato College of Education, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina

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