Reading, discrimination and cultural difference: education and the family
As English educators, we pay lip-service at least to the notion that we are engaged in promoting all four of reading, writing, listening and speaking. We usually argue that we only give lesser emphasis to the listening and speaking because they are harder to evaluate objectively; and we make variously successful attempts to expand the scope of the reading and writing tasks to avoid the criticism that we are too literature oriented and out of touch with the big wide world - that, in fact, we teach irrelevant content.
Most of us are familiar with the suggestion that we should return to teaching basics and that all our problems will be solved if we just stick to the more straight-forward models of instruction used by our predecessors. If only it was so simple.
In truth, the problems confronted by teachers at the chalk-face are becoming more complex than those of our predecessors and we do not have the luxury of abandoning students who do not achieve the level of mastery we demand. In fact, we are confronted with pragmatic political pressures and, I would venture, personal moral dilemmas when our best efforts do not succeed.
In 1984, Arthur Applebee, in an editorial Musing in R.T.E. (18.1) complained that English educators were strong on observation, description and conjecture but short on taking up the challenge of expounding theories which might be used as a basis for understanding the observations we make.
The purpose of this paper is to propose theories derived from research and to suggest how these theories can inform our efforts to teach English in increasingly multi-cultural, multilingual and culturally sensitive environments.
By now, we are all familiar with the notion that, despite several vocal detractors, reading is a natural activity (Williams, 1990), that if we read to children then they will grow up to be happy, healthy readers. The popular media support the notion; writers as diverse in their approach as Snowball (1982), Trelease (1984) and Meek (1988) reinforce the notion and the findings of researchers such as Clark (1976), Applebee (1978), Cronin (1986) and Toomey (1987, 1993) appear to confirm the notion. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly evident that the notion is no more than just that - a notion.
The process of reading acquisition is, quite clearly, a very complex operation. One which, I propose, depends substantially on the development of reading schema for both its initiation and its subsequent development.
The cross-generational study of families
In 1986, I provided an interim report on a case-study exploration of seven families over three generations in which I was seeking to isolate factors which influenced the changes observable in reading habits over generations (Bechervaise, 1987). In that paper I hypothesized that attitudes to reading might be influenced by:
*attitudinal changes to education arising from developing socio-economic aspiration in parents;
*the effects of loneliness or deprivation and
*the effects of intense personal experience.
The research took place within what would usually be termed a white, western, middle-class, literary-based society. The study involved families for whom three generations could speak for themselves and did not attempt to differentiate or represent the families by class, education or economic circumstance. In consequence, the effect of a broad disparity between families and across generations of families was included among the identifiable factors influencing reading.
In this study, the oldest respondents ranged in age from their sixties to early eighties while the youngest was fourteen. The majority of respondents lived in south-eastern Australia though individuals in Canada and England were interviewed during a fortuitously timed long service leave. As previously stated, the socio-economic class of the sample was widely disparate; as was the educational standard - from self-taught semi-literate to university qualified; and the family background - from rural poverty to urban affluence.
The study was predicated in the observation that there has been a significant shift in the educational standard in most westernised countries this century and that this is clearly evident in Australia. Accepting the innate importance of home environment and early childhood experience, I sought in the study to identify the factors which had been influential in promoting changes in attitude to reading. In other words, were there factors, events in the history of a family which could be seen as having changed the response of its members to literature?
The findings clearly demonstrated the significance of a number of key factors among which the impact of the economic depression of the 1930s, leading - as it did for Australia - into the second world war, was probably the most important. One of the least directly important appears to have been schooling. Without detailing all of the findings here, I believe they can be summarised into the following ten observations.
1. The presence in the home of books which have been, and are, read by the parents is a more positive influence on the development of readership in children than any other single factor. The establishment of an observably reader-oriented environment provides the child with a pattern of living which inevitably involves books. From which it follows that:
2. Families that buy books for personal reading tend to produce families of readers.
3. While some people read to define reality, others read to establish that there is a viable alternative to reality - albeit a vicarious and fictional alternative. Few of these read science fiction and fantasy, more read romance and mystery stories.
4. In periods of family stress, children tend to use books to support the prevalent family attitude to reading. If the family are readers then reading produces solace but if the family are non-readers then books may be targeted as a source of increased tension.
5. Exclusion of a younger child from what might be seen as a family reading session may result in unreasonable feelings of deprivation and isolation. This sense of exclusion can be initiated at a very early age and, in consequence, it is worth reiterating the observation that babies of three and four months are quite capable of responding to being told stories (Ward, 1982).
6. School students who come from homes which are reading hostile and who have little or no motivation to read can be turned on to books by teachers who persevere - but, it is unlikely that the newly initiated reader will learn to discriminate better from lesser quality literature, because a framework for discrimination has never been established and so, no procedure exists for the reader to process the material being read. This point is expanded upon later in this paper later but it is this, I believe, which explains the phenomenal success of the pot-boiler novels, the pseudo-historical novels of ever-increasing dimension and the proliferation of romance genre titles observed by Gilbert & Taylor (1991), et al.
7. Events beyond the control of teachers - and often of families - are responsible for the development of idiosyncratic attitudes toward reading but the family remains the most potent single force in the initiation of reading.
8. Changes in the social aspiration of parents for their children are unlikely to produce changes in reading patterns regardless of whether the new aspiration requires increased reading. Upwardly mobile parents tend to believe that because they plague their children with the importance of reading, this will affect the child's attitude. Lack of parental modelling effectively foils such an outcome.
9. Positive changes in reading pattern take three generations to substantiate. In the case of a non-reading family, the decision to change the family reading pattern may be initiated by presenting reading as a valuable pursuit to the second generation. The up-take of reading by the initiating generation will not spontaneously generate any deep or abiding satisfaction with reading unless it already exists and coffee-table or pulp genre reading is the most likely outcome of the initiation.
The second generation reader, being read to and encouraged to read but with little evident support for the exercise (no books in the house, no observably positive attitude to reading) will accept the value of reading and of books without any need to establish a framework with which to process the reading. Nevertheless, this generation will present a positive reading model for their offspring though the quality of the reading may still draw censure from a puritanical literature teacher.
In consequence of this history, the third generation reader is, of course, born into a home in which books are evident, in which the pleasures of reading are both extolled and observably displayed. In a reading environment, the need to read is unquestioned, the need for a framework within which to process the reading becomes essential and discriminatory reading becomes a part of living - the notion that reading is a natural activity, as Williams (1990) observes, is supported in the literary household.
10. Negative changes in reading attitudes also take three generations to substantiate but the process is by no means as certain. Readers are harder to un-make than they are to make (despite some fleeting feelings to the contrary when we try to encourage our less willing readers) and evidence of reading as a positive pursuit is difficult to suppress in a home where it is valued. Nevertheless, association of reading with traumatic experience - the death of a parent, particular unpleasantry (incest) - or with an ongoing traumatic association such as bitterness between parents may be sufficient to extinguish the positive response.
Such observations as I have presented require explanation and I do not believe that existing theories of reading acquisition and development provide satisfactory explanation. In consequence, I present theories which, I believe, lead toward an understanding of some of the apparently inexplicable problems we face as educators at the chalk-face.
Two theories of reading development
1. Literary discriminatory development
No doubt you are as familiar as I am with the criteria with which we discuss literary excellence, or literary merit anyway. No doubt you are familiar with the works of Richards and Leavis. Or perhaps you are more comfortable with the philosophies of Barthes, Foucault or Saussere, or maybe Derrida and the deconstructionists. Whether we see ourselves as Structuralists, Post-structuralists, New Critics or even literary nihilists - as English educators, we tend to share one belief in common - that the development of literary competence involves some measure of discriminatory development. We hope that our students will be able to read more competently than basal readers would suggest by the time they reach grade 6.
To achieve any literary discriminatory sense, the reader must be able to apply discriminatory criteria to what is read though, as Britton pointed out in the late sixties, the processes that have led to the satisfaction of another reader - a teacher, say, or a critic - can have value only in so far as the knowledge helps us to formulate our own processes, helps us, that is, become aware of the form of the response we have already made or are capable of making. (Britton, 1982:34)
Implicit in Britton's observation is the view that criteria for discrimination develop with experience in the young reader and that these can neither be used nor articulated before they are developed. The point seems self-evident but it is often ignored by literature teachers in pursuit of exam success.
So how does this discriminatory facility develop?
Consistent with the findings of the schema theorists (e.g. Ausubel, 1963, Anderson and Schifirin, 1980), literary discriminatory ability develops in response to the need to apprehend, comprehend and evaluate literary material accumulated - without initial concern for its later categorisation.
The development of literary discriminatory facility is essentially criterion based and cumulative and the major criteria are identifiable (as Purves foreshadowed (1973)) within a given social context.
I believe that the criteria are developed hierarchically though it is difficult to isolate the specific nature of the progression since there appears to be considerable scope for overlap in the accumulation. Furthermore, I think it is likely that while several criteria might be activated within a single literary experience, the specific order of development is determined by the most pressing need.
If, hypothetically, a reader discovers a particularly insightful observation about the human condition within a text that is elegantly written, the predominating criterion for evaluation will be that which is most useful in processing subsequent passages of the same text. Readers of uneven-quality text such as Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , Elliott's Silas Marner, Fowles French Lieutenant's Woman or, at a younger and more extreme level, the Dolly Romance and Sweet Dreams publications will be familiar with this dilemma of critical judgement. One criterion disputing another in indeterminate succession.
Plot interest seems most likely to be the first criterion for establishing literary quality and is both developed and articulated before Forster's disputed criterion of enjoyment. While it is difficult to persuade inexperienced readers to divorce quality from enjoyment, discriminating readers appear to have little difficulty making the separation and, indeed, appear to do so as they are reading.
Saturation reading is an essential feature of the process of criterion acquisition and the mechanism for acquisition is a rejection mechanism . Discrimination decisions are made on the basis of negative rather than positive experience. When it is discovered that a particular writer is now boring , the criterion has been established - though most certainly not consciously articulated. The decision to move on to another author or genre now becomes evident. Hence, criterion establishment is discernible as the end of a reading phase .
Steps in the development of a discriminatory framework can be over-run but they cannot be omitted. Readers forced beyond their level of discriminatory development invariably return to establish the missing criteria for themselves if they have begun to establish criteria in the first place. This point is crucial to a clear understanding on the part of educators of why their students sometimes appear to revert from, or to resist unreasonably, a step in criticism which appears quite acceptable to the experienced reader.
As Britton suggests,
Perhaps the meaning of a work of literature may be compared (as most things have been) to the ripples that move from a stone thrown into water; what happens to them depends to some extent on the configurations of the pond. (Britton, 1982:35)
The developing shape of the pond, of the young reader, is a product of its experience with previous ripples, of course; with parental attitudes to reading, the presence of books in the house, receipt of books as gifts and, most importantly - as Berry (1992) has demonstrated and as I shall expand upon later - earliest storying experiences.
The phenomenon of re-reading is a process of confirmation. Inexperienced readers reaching the end of a phase have established but not articulated the criterion for which that phase was responsible; they are not necessarily confident with the experience. In the period which follows the end of a reading phase, the reader is essentially adrift between criteria. The uncertainty of reading choice characteristic of this period often leads to re-reading as a process of confirmation against uncertainty.
Similarly, re-reading may be used to confirm that the criteria initiated in one phase are not lost in the progression toward later stages. This is observable, for example, in the re-reading of some of the works of early childhood such as Winnie the Pooh which, together with its interesting story has some elegant and charming observations that tend to be submerged through the periods of Blyton, Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie - to name a few common ones - but which may be re-explored, re-visited in middle to late adolescence.
If this theory of discriminatory development is to be acceptable, then it must be able to explain a number of commonly observable features of the young readers we meet in primary and secondary classrooms - and those who have left the classroom too.. What the theory will not do is explain why parents who say that they have read to their children produce children who cannot recall having been read to. Nor will the theory explain why a reader, apparently a highly discriminating reader, chooses to read poor quality literature and to deliberately exclude better quality literature from consideration. No doubt answers exist, and no doubt the answers require a large volume of detailed information. Their pursuit is beyond the immediate scope of this paper.
Of greater importance, since it is crucial to the need to acquire a discriminatory framework is the need to establish not whether but how children come to know with such certainty that books are valued in their home. Again, while there is much description of the acquisition of early reading experience, there is little supportive theory to suggest mechanisms for acquisition. What follows is a theoretical base for the explanation of literacy acquisition.
2. Bonding babies with books
From the viewpoint of the English educator, a number of compelling observations arise in consideration of the storytelling process. Perhaps the most important - and controversial - of which is that it is not the story which is the most important aspect of storytelling. A story can only be told if there is a teller and an audience. In fact, as Rosenblatt (1978) asserts and Applebee (1978) confirms, the story only exists as story when it has an audience. At a literary level, the storyteller is usually seen to be the author, the reader as the audience and, as Meek (1982) has pointed out, the real story, the poem (Rosenblatt, 1978:12), which presupposes active involvement and comprehension, occurs in the inter-text (which operates between the lines, in the transaction between the author and reader, which is deeply personal and which depends heavily upon what psycholinguists such as Angelotti (1980) have termed shared experience.)
It is at this inter-textual level, of course, that the storytelling process either works or fails. The relationship between author/storyteller and reader is developed, as Goodman (1976) pointed out, on the basis of the depth of shared experience - "Can you remember where the hay-stack used to be?" - but it continues to develop only when the audience/listener both comprehends and agrees to accept the story-tellers story, to share the story with its teller, "Well, about a hundred yards south of that hay-stack there was a magic wishing tree." Once we have accepted a girl falling asleep under a tree (a shared experience) we must accept that she can fall down a rabbit hole - after that, all things become possible - if the story-teller is resourceful enough.
At a literary level we understand increasingly how and why reading is important, how storying is important. What we still have little comprehension of is the essential nature of early storying if later development is to occur. The works of Boomer and Spender (1976), Clark (1976), Applebee (1978) and Trelease (1984) strongly suggest that storying, how a story is, begins very early in a child's development, in the pre-speech stage certainly. But it is the determined work of writers and researchers such as Chall (1967), Chan (1974), Ferriero and Teberosky (1982), Wells and Nicholls(1985) and Meek (1989) which suggests possible mechanisms by which this might occur.
A young baby in a nursing mother's arms usually learns quickly to associate mother with food. The knowledge is rapidly expanded to include the association of mother's voice with the immediacy of food. Mother, through the agency of her voice represents a source for the removal of discomfort (hunger in this case) even before the baby can properly focus to receive an accurate image of mother.
This initial association of the voice with the removal of discomfort, I propose, also establishes the primary relationship of speaker with audience which is fundamental to the success of the storyteller.
As the comforting, caring adult/parent continues to nurture the developing infant, the rules of storying are further established. While adult/parent is engaged in various tasks, baby is present. Adult talks to baby, holds baby, reads to baby. The adult/baby bonds are established through the agency of the adult voice in association with the provision of comfort while tonal variation rather than specific content determine early comprehension.
The development of the bonding involves, as Piaget (1952) proposed, an initially continual and undirected testing such as that described by Boomer and Spender (1976) who describe a child lying in bed practising sound combinations, trying on the sounds of syllables and words, testing for meaning and for pleasant association with the day's events. In Piagetian terms this testing corresponds to the play stage wherein the exemplars of a concept are played with long before any idea of their future usefulness in ordering the world is established.
The weakness in Piaget's proposal is that he suggests no mechanism for development within the play stage and provides no acceptable means for the child to order activity, consciously or unconsciously, to pass beyond the stage. One is left to believe that perhaps the development is physiological, maybe maturational? However we order it, Piaget's development appears to be hierarchical but the accession of the hierarchy is unexplained.
The theory proposed here submits that the development is ordered, that the ordering occurs to satisfy demands for order and the hierarchy is determined by the order in which the demands are met to reduce immediate discomfort. Once the adult/baby bonding has been established - through the agency of the adult's voice and physical proximity and on the basis of the adult's facility for removing discomfort - the characteristics which establish readership begin to emerge.
The observations of Ferriero and Teberosky (1982) that children in the pre-reading stage can identify the actions of reading and even discern the likelihood of a text deriving from a newspaper or a storybook support Applebee's (1978) proposition that children learn the way stories are by hearing them read. But Ferriero and Teberosky's (1982) observations go further to imply that the toddler learns to associate the type of story with the type of book - a point which is consistent with the concerns of Luke and Freebody (1990) for a socio-culturally directed pedagogy and which will not be lost to the genre theorists among us.
Applebee (1978) observes both the development of storying and the development of language in children but, like Wells (1981), he does not take the step which he himself has demanded (Applebee, 1984), of suggesting a mechanism whereby these are internalised and ordered by the child.
In proposing such a mechanism here, let us assume, for the time being at least, that our baby is physically and mentally healthy and that bonding between adult/carer/parent and baby is occurring without apparent problems (the bonding is, in fact, a prior condition for learning from that adult). A secondary bonding, of the baby with the book, can now be established.
The adult reading a story from the book becomes associated by the baby with a sense of comfort and well-being established in the initial adult/baby bonding. The book now becomes the source of stories which are associated with close adult presence and comfort and thus, books become associated with comfort. This triadic association between adult, baby and book is established through repetition and, ultimately, it becomes practical to leave the baby with the book as a source of story in a similar way to leaving the baby with a favorite toy.
The observation that babies will sit with books and make story noises in imitation of the sounds of a story provides further confirmation that this association occurs. That they also come to identify with the print as the source of the story and try to write their own story on the book is often less appreciated by adults who miss the connection between the two. This point has recently been most clearly articulated by Protherough (1993) in her work on the apparent interference of pictures in the peception of text among early readers.
In this model, it is accepted that the apparent bonding between adult and book need only be illusory. The book, in the early stages of the baby's development may not even be a story book. If, as a traditional role example, mother is carrying her baby on her hip as she reads a recipe aloud and prepares a cake, she may be seen to be telling a story from a book. In this example the content is clearly less important than the association developing between mother, baby and the book. In an alternative example, the adult - essentially a non-reader herself - believes that babies should be read to. Having little knowledge or experience of the reading level of a baby, she sits the baby on her knee and reads aloud from a women's magazine. The baby, unconcerned with books and stories at this stage of its development, can only associate what it is seeing and hearing with the source, its mother. Since the mother is providing warmth and contact with her baby, the baby comes to associate warmth and contact with both the mother and the book (magazine).
Reinforcement of the triadic association requires sufficient positive experience to establish the book as the source of the story (Miller and Gildea, 1987). The existence of the story must come to be seen as pre-ordained by the presence of the book and part of the success of this association requires the presence of books in the home. The ownership of books becomes a necessary condition for further reinforcement of the validity of the association if the home book presence is to remain credible - books must not only be seen, they must be seen to have permanence.
The voice of the nurturing adult, the comfort provided and the presence of the book become an integral triad, where the presence of comfort and, at bed-time at least, the presence of the adult may come to evoke the demand for a book. Observation of the calming effect of placing a book within reach of a distressed baby suggests that such a mechanism is likely. And if this triadic bonding with books is established during babyhood then the fundamental first criterion for literary discrimination has been established - stories are for enjoying.
The model is beguiling in its simplicity. Baby, book, caring adult. A triadic bonding. Very elegant. Unfortunately, while the model provides an important initial understanding of the process by which babies come to acquire an enjoyment of stories, the observable failures of this bonding to occur need explanation. In fact, it appears, the main short-coming of the theory relates to its most obvious element - the baby bonds to the voice of the story, not to the written text. While an association with story may be initiated through the conjunction of the book and the voice, the association does not necessitate a further link between the story and the script from which it derives, Protherough's (1993) point.
A simple example serves to illustrate the point: Hugh appears to have failed to develop the triadic association proposed despite the fact that he was read to by his mother and despite the fact that he comes from a family of readers. What sets Hugh apart from others is that he is a great storyteller. Hugh, as an adult, reads books indiscriminately but he doesn't enjoy reading - he only knows that he should (and he is an English teacher). Hugh, however, has one further feature which is worthy of note, he wears thick spectacles. It was not always so. His sight defect wasn't diagnosed until he went to school. In fact, Hugh has a significant sight defect and he cannot see print on a page without his glasses. He cannot even see the pictures comprehensibly.
Hugh's background would suggest that he should be a reader. He now is. But his physical defect, his inability to associate print with story, has resulted in his associating voice with story. A number of similar "mis-bondings" confirm the view that the simple triadic model first proposed needs amendment to account for the variations which arise when the subjects involved in the triad are not healthily and (in the literary tradition) normally bonded with books.
The revision required does not interfere with the essentially triadic nature of the association but it does require revision of the description of both story and storyteller.
In defiance of our traditional views, beginning learners may accept their story from voice, from print, or from visual image. The book may be seen as containing sensible pictures and some black marks on the page, it may be seen as containing print or it may not be seen as the source of the story at all. Similarly, the story may derive from print, from a human voice, from the radio or from the television screen.
The importance of the association made will be quite clear to us as readers but it is far from clear to many parents and to their children when they attend school and experience failures which are otherwise inexplicable.
Cultural background and literary development
It is now, I hope, well established that lack of success at school does not necessarily derive from a negative attitude towards education, paradoxical as this may seem. As Sutcliffe (1982) observes when speaking of black children and their education in Britain, ...the will to succeed in school was a strong asset that West Indians brought with them to British classrooms. Respect for education is widespread and traditional in the [Caribbean] islands. Unfortunately, school failure is just as widespread ... brought about by overcrowding and lack of equipment, and an education system that up until the present has been biased against the cultural identity of the child (Sutcliffe, 1982:74).
Recent educational 'initiatives' in England, at least, appear to have further substantiated this bias. Sutcliffe further observes that development of confidence and fluency is fostered in the culture, not only in informal meetings but also in a variety of other settings including the church and concludes that such oral fluency "ought to be transferable to school work [because] Important growth points for education are narrative, drama and poetry" (Sutcliffe, 1982:74).
In noting the orientation towards oral proficiency, Sutcliffe substantiates the observations recorded in Heath's (1983) Ways with Words. Heath also notes the concern of her communities for the educational success of their children but, in observing their lack of success, she identifies pre-school literacy training with educational achievement. Heath's Roadville and Trackton residents want educational, literary oriented success but they do not associate, do not bond, their children with books. Similarly, the Australian Aboriginal people in repeated submissions to government committees and in both formal and informal submissions have indicated
... that they want their children to be able to speak, read and write English. This is because they accept that they live in a society alien to their traditional culture, in which their children must grow up and compete. (Ruddock, 1985:93
but, again, the Australian aboriginal culture is an oral culture. The likelihood of achieving a bonding with books remains minimal. Which necessarily leads to a rather painful observation.
The literature-based structure of the western education system positively discriminates against children deriving from oral -based cultures.
In a period when governments are stressing the need for more and better education and Australia remains the only country in the South-Pacific region with a National Language Planning policy, we are faced with an impossible conundrum: the style of education we are offering to a greater number of children than have ever been offered education is contradictory to the style of learning of the children we are offering it to. For an oral-based culture we are offering a largely anglo-centric literature based learning experience.
And we don't understand why it isn't working?
In Australia today, as throughout the world, we have faster, more efficient methods of doing practically everything except educate our population for life in the 'clever country'. We keep revising our education systems to cope with the increased influx of migrants and refugees; we keep organising committees to arrive at consensus decisions as to how we can improve the quality of education, of life itself; but we refuse to recognise that the machine we are driving is inappropriate to the conditions of the road, that bonding with the story is not bonding with the book and that just because a story can be written in a book in a literary form does not mean that it came from, or even belongs in a book.
We hold steadfastly to the post-Gutenberg belief that written knowledge is the only worthy knowledge and that those whose values are not aligned with our own are not only deficient but probably subversive. We pay scant attention to the self-evident fact that individuals whom we often require to be at least bilingual before we will teach them the literacy forms of their most recently acquired language, have already established their intellectual credentials and should, perhaps, be educated by alternative procedures if they do not seem to take instantly and irreversibly to literature-based instruction. We represent a standard Australian English as a benchmark for academic success and test fluency in this undefined language variant by almost exclusive prescription of written examinations.
The purpose of this paper has been to highlight what I see to be one of the most significant problems facing not only English educators but Education itself as we proceed through the last decade of the twentieth century. I do not have answers to the problem but I do have some suggestions. And they are all based in the belief with which I have approached this paper from the beginning:
All children have the right to an education which will fit them for success in the society to which they aspire.
Unfortunately, not all children derive from a common background. The belief that they can be educated in the same way is demonstrably untenable. The on again, off again National English Framework provides a coherent approach to the development of English education in Australia, nevertheless, education systems being what they are and doing what they do in the way they do it, are unlikely to be able to muster the flexibility which acceptance of this observation demands. Instead, therefore, they will have to accommodate to the changes being thrust upon them by their changing and increasingly complex clientele. And this is likely to be a long and painful process.
In the meantime, as English educators, we have a responsibility to respond more quickly to what we know about how children learn and the diversity of styles in which they do so. Acceptance of the fact that the literature-based curriculum may be positively disadvantaging some of the students in front of us is a first step to action. Renewed recognition of the fact that speaking, listening and viewing are the other three touch-stones of English education provides a responsible place to begin. Introduction of strategies which empower students to utilize their oral facility and their knowledge of their home culture and which recognise the strengths that derive from their cultural diversity would provide a powerful agency for increased efficiency in our educational offerings.
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