Journal of Research in Childhood Education Vol. 18, No. 2, Winter 2003/04

Journal of Research in Childhood Education Vol. 18, No. 2, Winter 2003/04

Kelley, Michael F

This issue highlights children’s knowledge of social isolation, professional support for relative child care providers, undergraduate early childhood preparation, effects of teaching play strategies on social interactions for a child with autism, preschoolers’ anatomical knowledge, and the design and implementation of a pediatric literacy education program. The first study examines age differences in the content of children’s self-generated descriptions of withdrawn behaviors, such as active isolation, social disinterest, fearful shyness, and self-conscious shyness. Using child interview methodology, 1st- and 5th-grade children were asked to think about a peer who did not play a lot with others. Then, the children were asked to speculate on that peer’s reasons, behaviors, and emotions for playing alone. The results suggest that children as young as 6 are capable of generating reasons, behaviors, and emotions that describe different forms of social withdrawal. This research identifies ways to assess socially withdrawn children and suggests differential interventions. The next study investigates the impact of a child care resource and referral project to support relative care providers. Over 300 relative care providers received direct contact with a professional child care consultant who provided materials, children’s books, and information during on-site visits. Project evaluation results showed that 25 percent of the identified relafive care providers received information that could positively influence the quality of child care in the home. The authors also recommend several strategies to improve the long-term outcomes of the project. The third study is a national survey of undergraduate early childhood programs in NCATE-accredited institutions regarding their inclusion of content related to serving young children and their families living in poverty. Three hundred twenty programs were surveyed, and 123 were included in the final analyses. Roughly three-fourths of the programs required some field experience working with low-income families; however, the preparation of students in dealing with the issues confronted by children and families in poverty is not as evident. The results from this study offer clear suggestions and directions for improving undergraduate programs to work with children and families in poverty. Drawing upon the literature of structured teaching and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP), and employing case study methodology, the authors of the fourth study explore the effects of teaching play strategies on the social interaction patterns of a child with autism. Rich in description, this article documents how the teacher and researcher help the autistic child significantly increase a) the amount of complex play with toys and increase: b) the social interactions with typically developing peers, and c) the ability to generalize social skills to new settings. The implications for appropriate intervention strategies are well documented throughout this study. The fifth study investigated preschoolers’ anatomical knowledge of salient and non-salient sexual and non-sexual body parts. Ninety-nine 4-year-old male and female children were asked to name body parts on a same-sex, anatomically correct doll. The preschoolers demonstrated greater anatomical knowledge of salient than non-salient body parts. The authors discuss gender differences and highlight implications for the educational, medical, and legal communities. The final study reports on the development and implementation of a pediatric literacy education program designed to improve the literacy experiences of low-income families. The authors interviewed 224 Spanish- and English-speaking primary caregivers of young children who attend an urban pediatric clinic. The research identified everyday activities that could facilitate language and literacy development and identified barriers to greater literacy orientation. The results of the research were used to develop a pediatric literacy program that would meet the needs of the clinic population.

A Closer Look at Children’s Knowledge About Social Isolation

-Molina, Coplan, & Younger

During the past two decades, researchers have documented that children who engage in social withdrawal and behavioral solitude in the presence of peers are more likely to experience socio-emotional difficulties. The goal of this study was to examine how children in the early and middle childhood periods perceive social withdrawal. Eighty-four children attending local elementary schools in Canada participated in the study. Half of the children were from Grade 1, while the other half were from Grade 5. The children were interviewed using a 15-item instrument that asked them to describe the reasons, behaviors, and emotions of children who play alone. Results showed that children in both Grade 1 and Grade 5 were able to generate a variety of reasons, behaviors, and emotions that describe different forms of social withdrawal. The data suggests that children at both ages view playing alone from a multidimensional perspective. Indeed, children in both grades made clear distinctions in terms of which forms of withdrawal might be considered most problematic at school. The practical implications of this research relate to improving the identification process of “at-risk” children and developing and implementing differential intervention strategies linked to different forms of shyness and social withdrawal.

Relative Child Care: Supporting the Providers

-Mitchell & Messner

Recent research has documented that a large percentage of child care environments rate low on overall quality. Often, child care providers lack critical training, resource information, and support. In an attempt to address these issues of quality, this study examined the impact of a child care resource and referral agency project to support relative care providers. Eighteen professionals from 16 Kansas-based child care and resource referral agencies were trained to distribute child care gift packages to relative care providers who requested the materials. The professionals maintained detailed records on the relative child care providers, including home visit contacts, types of information requested, and future training needs. The 18 child care resource and referral professionals and the 315 relative child care providers served (representing 25 percent of the 1,249 identified) were asked to complete surveys and questionnaires to determine if the project met its goals. The authors determined that persistent follow-up contacts by the professionals were responsible for the 25 percent success rate. In addition, the authors learned that all of the 30 relative care providers who returned surveys reported that the items in the child care gift packages were helpful to them. The study also identified child care issues that were considered most important to the relative child care providers, and it highlighted the barriers to contacting and delivering the child care packages. This study is important in that it is one of the few that has targeted relative providers, who are a vital resource for families. It concludes with a number of specific strategies to improve outreach and training for relative childcare providers.

Preparing Early Childhood Educators To Serve Children and Families Living in Poverty: A National Survey of Undergraduate Programs

-Hallam, Buell, & Ridgley

With an ever-increasing number of children and families living in poverty, it is paramount that early childhood educators experience preparation at the undergraduate level to meet the unique needs of low-income children and families. This study is a national survey of 123 NCATE-accredited early childhood and/or early childhood special education programs offered in 2001. The authors sought to determine if the NCATE programs were preparing preservice teachers to support young children and families in poverty. Specifically, Hallam, Buell, and Ridgley surveyed, through a 20-item questionnaire, each program’s knowledge and skill focus and content delivery mechanisms related to working with low-income children and families. Moreover, as a part of the survey, they sought to understand the assessment strategies that the programs used to evaluate skill and content attainment. Results indicated that 75 percent of the programs required field experiences or practica working with low-income families as a part of their undergraduate curriculum. A factor analysis of the 20-item skill survey found seven key areas related to supporting young children in poverty. These included contextual factors affecting caregivers; adult development content; microsystem effects on child development; community resource influences on children; understanding poverty; systems issues that affect working with families; and the impact of violence on child development. Additional findings were reported for types of pedagogy used to deliver content skills and forms of assessment to evaluate skill achievement. The authors assert that data from this study indicate a need for an increased preparation emphasis on understanding how ecological factors affect low-income children and the adults who are in their lives.

The Effects of Teaching Play Strategies on Social Interaction for a Child With Autism: A Case Study

-Franche & Geist

This unique study employed participant observation methodology to examine the effects of teaching play strategies to one child with autism and global delay on his cognitive development, academic progress, and social interactions with disabled and typically developing peers. The authors employed a curricular model that blends the best of structured teaching with Developmentally Appropriate Practices to teach the 3-year-old child play skills in an integrated preschool setting. During the study period, scheduled observations in 20-minute segments were conducted four times a week, resulting in over 150 hours of direct observation. Observations were conducted during structured teaching, free choice playtime, lunch, and small- and large-group activities. Video and audio recordings, as well as running and anecdotal records, were captured by the teacher and supplemented with work done by the child. Content analysis methodology was used to identify emerging themes from the data transcripts, written observational records, and child work samples. The themes that emerged were organized into patterns of development in the child’s interactions with toys and other students in the classroom, and yielded findings directly related to the research questions. The results showed that prior to teaching play strategies, the child routinely participated in unoccupied or solitary play, rarely engaging in productive play with objects or peers. Upon conclusion of the structured play skills treatment phase, the child had developed more complex play and social behaviors. He participated in more open-ended play and was able to generalize those skills to new situations. This article concludes with recommended classroom practices relating to appropriate intervention strategies, curricular flexibility and adaptability, and integrated preschool settings.

Preschoolers’ Anatomical Knowledge of Salient and Non-salient Sexual and Non-sexual Body Parts

-Thackeray & Readdick

The purpose of this study was to document young children’s anatomical knowledge of all visible body parts and to determine if there were any differences due to gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. While previous studies of differences in anatomical knowledge of sexual body parts have been found to be associated with age, gender, and socioeconomic status, it appears that those findings may reflect methodological inconsistencies in stimulus presentation across the various studies rather than child differences. The authors of this study randomly selected 99 children from 10 licensed child care facilities. The children ranged in aged from 48 to 59 months, and were stratified across gender and categorized by ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The researchers used anatomically correct, male and female modified Cabbage Patch dolls that represented all ethnicities. Children were asked to name all visible body parts on a same-sex doll, and their answers were scored for accuracy in labeling and saliency. The results showed that girls had higher levels of knowledge than boys. In addition, preschoolers in general demonstrated greater anatomical knowledge of salient than non-salient body parts. Interestingly, most of the children used slang terms to describe boy parts or they did not know the names. There were no differences associated with ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Thackeray and Readdick suggest that parents and professionals should use correct terminology for all body parts. In addition, it is important for the legal and child protection system to understand the extent of children’s anatomical knowledge and the terms they use to describe their anatomy.

A Pediatric Literacy Education Program for Low Socioeconomic, Culturally Diverse Families

-Diener, Wright, Julian, & Byington

The role that literacy plays in educational attainment is well-known. Children and families who experience rich literacy environments are much more likely to succeed in school and work. Unfortunately, many low-income children and families from culturally diverse backgrounds do not have rich literacy experiences and, thus, are at risk for poor literacy. This study examines an innovative approach to literacy education for low socioeconomic and culturally diverse families. Professionals from a variety of fields joined together to utilize a pediatric clinic as a vehicle for literacy education for a population of diverse families and children most at risk for poor literacy. At the onset of the study, parents attending the health clinic were asked to participate in a brief interview regarding their favorite activities to do with their children, their children’s book reading experiences, and their own reading experiences. Ninety-six percent of the eligible parents (N=224) agreed to be interviewed. Roughly half of the interviews were conducted in Spanish. In terms of favorite caregiver activities, parents identified playing with toys, pretend and gross motor play, reading books, and watching media. Thirty-nine percent of the parents reported that reading was one of their favorite activities. Moreover, a large number of the parents reported that their child had been read to on the previous day and that their children enjoyed reading or looking at books. The data regarding families most at risk, particularly for the lowest quartile, indicated that 78 percent of those families were first- or second-generation immigrants to the United States, primarily of Latino origin. They had lower educational levels and reported low adult literacy orientation. The information learned from this research was used to design a variety of pediatric literacy education efforts for this clinic. Physicians were trained to encourage emergent literacy skills, and each child was given a new book at each check-up. Moreover, the clinic established a library for parent use, as well as a community resource and referral system. The article concludes with rich descriptions of each component of the clinic literacy program.

Copyright Association for Childhood Education International Spring 2004

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