Prema K. S. Rao, 'Emergent Literacy Spectrum of Bilingual Children in India' (2021)

'Emergent Literacy Spectrum of Bilingual Children in India' book jacket

Literacy is an individual’s ability to read and write. The complexities of skills required to be literate raise an intriguing question: “how does one become literate?” Literacy skills emerge during early childhood (known as emergent literacy) and lead a child towards the path of reading. Many precursors such as oral language skills, phonological awareness skills, and written language (print) awareness skills facilitate the development of emergent literacy. The subcomponents within each of these precursors have a very intricate relationship with one another. The attempts made over the last few decades to understand the components of literacy, the stages of literacy acquisition in children, and literacy failure in school children are evident in research reports, but the focus appears to be skewed towards monolingual children. As a result, a void exists when one encounters a bilingual child for assessment. However, studies from linguistically diverse countries in recent years highlight the differences in early literacy behaviors of monolingual children and bilingual children. As a consequence, the knowledge gap is slowly narrowing to recognize the emergent literacy spectrum in bilingual children who are known to have cognitive advantages. Since cognition, language, and literacy fall on a continuum, there are bound to be advantages for bilingual/multilingual children in the development of early literacy behaviors. The available information supports the idea of cognitive benefits derived through exposure to languages, emphasizing that communication is more important than the specific linguistic units used by the teachers.

Emergent Literacy Spectrum of Bilingual Children in India describes the concepts, components, and dimensions of literacy and emergent literacy; bilingualism; language and script–diaspora in the Indian context; the continuum of language and literacy; language policy for education in India; challenges for identification, assessment, and promotion of emergent literacy skills in India; and typical examples in Indian languages with research evidence for understanding the spectrum of emergent literacy in bilingual children. A theoretical rationale is given for each of the concepts followed by simple descriptions, examples, and illustrations. The book provides crucial knowledge and useful tips for professionals, teachers, and informed parents in their teaching-learning activities with children. Researchers may explore the ideas discussed in the monograph by pursuing studies to augment our knowledge of the acquisition of literacy in bilingual children.

The author’s many years of experience as a speech-language pathologist in the Indian subcontinent suggests that there is scanty information on emergent literacy in Indian bilingual children. Several interactions held with professionals and preschool teachers during workshops and seminars have indicated that there is a great need to enhance the knowledge base on emergent/early literacy, its development, and the likelihood of failures in literacy acquisition in children. The publication is useful to all professionals working with young children, educational administrators as well as policymakers.

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Dr. Prema K. S. Rao, holds a doctoral degree in speech and hearing discipline. Her major area of work focuses on language and literacy acquisition and disorders, bilingualism  and  bilitera­ cy, and understanding  the relationship  among cognition, language and literacy. She has held several key positions during her service as Professor and  Head at the  All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, India. She is a recipient of prestigious WHO Fellowship, Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, Dr. N. Rathna Oration Award, Best AIISHian Award, and Best paper awards in National conferences. She has published several research papers in peer-reviewed  national and international journals, chapters in books, mentored post-doctoral, doctoral and master's students for dissertations and theses. She is a Reviewer for prestigious journals and reports of funded projects. Currently, she is a freelancer serving as a Consultant for field-based projects and academic research on language development and literacy.

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