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The oral language and emergent literacy skills of preschoolers: Early childhood teachers’ self-reported role, knowledge and confidence

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posted on 2023-07-12, 00:28 authored by Tessa WeadmanTessa Weadman, Tanya SerryTanya Serry, Pamela SnowPamela Snow
Background: Early childhood teachers (ECTs) play a significant role in equipping children with oral language and emergent literacy skills ahead of school entry. They are well positioned to play a vital role in ensuring preschool children receive a high-quality preschool curriculum to prepare them for later literacy learning. Aims: The purpose of this study was to explore early career ECTs’ views and confidence regarding their role in providing preschoolers with oral language and emergent literacy support and to examine their perceptions of their preservice preparation. Methods & Procedures: Nine Australian early career ECTs were recruited via purposive sampling for an in-depth, semi-structured interview. Data were analysed using an inductive thematic analysis approach. Outcomes & Results: Participants attached strong significance to their role in facilitating children's oral language growth and emergent literacy skills and reported a range of practices to support children's learning. However, they rarely referred to using established language facilitation strategies or using dialogic book reading prompts. Further, emergent literacy concepts such as phonological awareness and print awareness were not routinely described as features of participants’ classroom activities. Participants did not consistently make a clear conceptual distinction between the constructs of oral language and emergent literacy and often used these terms interchangeably. Notably, participants indicated that they did not feel confident in their ability to identify preschool children who were not meeting developmental language milestones and reported that they felt poorly equipped to do so by their preservice training. Conclusions & Implications: ECTs’ strong willingness to support preschool children's oral language and emergent literacy skills may be hindered by gaps in their knowledge; these may contribute to important and missed opportunities for identifying and supporting preschoolers’ oral language and emergent literacy growth. What this paper adds: What is already known on this subject? High-quality learning experiences in preschool are important for maximising preschoolers' oral language and emergent literacy growth. Early childhood teachers can play an important role in facilitating this development and preparing children for later literacy learning. What this paper adds to existing knowledge? The study findings provide insight into ECTs' perceptions of their role and support in developing children's oral language and emergent literacy skills. The results indicated ECTs did not feel confident with their knowledge of children's language milestones or identifying children with language difficulties. Participants reported that their preservice training left them underprepared in the area of oral language. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? ECTs demonstrated a strong willingness to support preschoolers' oral language and emergent literacy skills. However, their self-reported knowledge gaps and low confidence may have implications for the early detection of children who are not reaching language developmental milestones in a timely way.


Publication Date



International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders






15p. (p. 154-168)





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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. © 2022 The Authors.International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

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