Cup starts with K, right?

Research in Luigi Girolametto’s lab examines emergent literacy skills in preschoolers, including vocabulary, narrative ability, phonological awareness, and invented spelling. These skills are considered to be the building blocks of literacy …

Back row (L to R): Trelani Milburn, Pamela Beach, Adrienne Miranda, Anita Ewan, Brittani Adamson, Kathy Hipfner-Boucher
Front row (L to R): Katy Mak, Janani Selvachandran, Halee Donenfeld, Ashwini Namasivayam, Dilani Balasubramaniam

The emergent literacy research undertaken in Luigi’s lab is funded by a SSHRC grant awarded to Luigi Girolametto, Elaine Weitzman (The Hanen Centre), Janette Pelletier (Jackman Institute for Child Studies), and Janice Greenberg (The Hanen Centre). Emergent literacy includes a wide array of skills that children develop before conventional reading is learned, such as phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, print concepts, narrative awareness, oral vocabulary, and abstract language. The development of these skills prepares young children for formal reading instruction, which is critical for their future academic and social success.

For over a year, Dr. Kathy Hipfner-Boucher (Postdoctoral Fellow), Trelani Milburn (PhD student), Ashwini Namasivayam (MHSc student) and a host of student research assistants have been tirelessly working to collect and analyse data on the emergent literacy skills of over 120 JK and SK children. The children come from diverse socioeconomic and linguistic backgrounds, reflecting Toronto’s multicultural and varied nature. Kathy’s main interest is on the narrative development of young children and how this relates to other developing literacy skills, such as phonological awareness. She is also examining the efficacy of a professional development program for early childhood educators that aims to improve the emergent literacy skills of preschool children. The professional development program is ABC and Beyond, a trademarked program of The Hanen Centre, in which an SLP trains educators how to facilitate emergent literacy skills in their classrooms. Trelani’s work focuses on the invented spelling skills of young children and how phonological awareness shapes their early attempts at spelling letters, words, and sentences. She is also interested in the ways in which educators scaffold children’s spelling and written language during craft/writing activities. Ashwini’s research is investigating the effectiveness of ABC and Beyond for helping educators use vocabulary teaching strategies during story book reading.

From a practical perspective, these studies may identify effective practices that can be used by educators, clinicians, and policy makers to improve children’s emergent literacy skills. From a theoretical perspective, this research will provide (a) insights into classroom contexts for emergent literacy instruction and (b) the associations between adults’ use of emergent literacy strategies and children’s readiness for formal reading instruction before they enter school. Providing information and training about stimulating literacy skills has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of early childhood educators, raise the overall quality of the child care environment, and promote the developmental outcomes of children in childcare.