The spread of the covid-19 pandemic has been accelerating in Taiwan since May. Times are tough right now for many parents because they have to take care of young children when working from home. However, everyone just needs to weather the storm for a while and things will definitely get better.
This issue covers several items: a brief introduction to The Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) established by Prof. Brian MacWhinney and Prof. Catherine Snow, an overview of emergent literacy, a highlight of some interesting KIT findings, and a short profile of Prof. Shu-Ching Chou who works at the Graduate School of Curriculum and Instructional Communications Technology, National Taipei University of Education. Last but not least, there is a guide to Don't Worry, That's Ok, a storybook about a grandfather who teaches his grandchild philosophy of life.
The Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES)
The Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) is the biggest child language corpus in the world consisting of hundreds of corpora from more than 40 different languages. Created in 1982, the database comprises transcripts of young children’s verbal interactions with people around them like parents, teachers, and playmates, and now many of the transcripts are linked to audio/video media files. Interested researchers can have access to the database and analyze the transcripts by using CLAN, a computer program constructed by the CHILDES system. Researchers who want to contribute their data files to the CHILDES system are also welcomed. All of the transcripts in the database are transcribed in CHAT format, a standardized coding system developed by the CHILDES Project. People who conduct research into child language acquisition may find the resources at the CHILDES website very useful and valuable. Please visit https://childes.talkbank.org/ for more information.
What is Emergent Literacy?
The period from birth to age five is critical for children’s development of emergent literacy skills. Before children learn how to read and write words conventionally, they have some knowledge of reading and writing. For example, they know how to handle a book and how to follow words on a page, they know there should be a book title and an author’s name on a book cover, they can recognize or pronounce their own names, and they are able to differentiate the smaller sounds in words and play with them.
The concept of emergent literacy was introduced by Marie Clay, a New Zealand researcher, in 1966. Her theory proposes that, before formal education, children’s literacy development begins. Even in early childhood, children are in the process of becoming literate. If the environment around them is rich in literacy, they can benefit a lot and can gradually progress from an emergent reader to a conventional reader.
How do children in Taiwan develop their emergent literacy skills? According to the KIT findings, children in Taiwan do not acquire emergent literacy skills until they are one year old. As children grow older, their emergent literacy skills show linear growth. Their development is accelerating at age 3, and children at age 5 are equipped with a variety of important literacy skills which support them to become a successful reader. For example, they know what information a book cover may have, they know words in a book are read from left to right and top to bottom, they can recognize their names in print, and they know people use letters and words to preserve information.
Many studies indicate that emergent literacy prepares children with the skills they will need to learn how to read; also, children’s reading ability is closely related to their academic performance. Therefore, the KIT project will follow children in Taiwan from birth to age 8 to investigate the connection between their emergent literacy skills, reading ability, and academic performance at elementary school, which will provide a clearer picture of how the reading ability of children in Taiwan develops.
Highlight of KIT Findings
Given that the pandemic has significantly altered our daily lives, the KIT project recently launched a new survey program which gathers information on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Taiwan’s children and their family. The data collection of Wave 1 and Wave 2 surveys has been completed. Here is the summary of the responses from parents:
(1) Within the first two weeks of the nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert (Wave 1 survey, from May 29 to June 4, N=1370)
Parents often or sometimes have positive emotions: 57.4%
Parents often or sometimes have negative emotions: 54.5%
Parents are generally satisfied with current life: 70.7%
(2) Within the third and fourth weeks of the nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert (Wave 2 survey, from June 5 to June 11, N=1923)
Parents often or sometimes have positive emotions: 70.6%
Parents often or sometimes have negative emotions: 52.1%
Parents are generally satisfied with current life: 75.5%
In the survey, positive emotions refer to secure, peaceful, relaxed, and easy feelings, while negative emotions refer to sad, melancholy, worried, and unhappy feelings. The responses from parents show that they have more positive emotions two weeks after the lockdown started.
About Prof. Shu-Ching Chou
Shu-Ching Chou is Full Professor of the Graduate School of Curriculum and Instructional Communications Technology at National Taipei University of Education. Her academic interests center on curriculum theories, curriculum design, professional development of teachers, and aesthetic inquiry for curriculum. In addition, since Prof. Chou is very familiar with the theories and practices of Grade 1-9 curriculum and teacher training, she is involved in the 12-Year Basic Education pilot school project as a general coordinator who is responsible for pressing ahead with the new Grade 1-9 curriculum framework. Prof. Chou’s expertise greatly benefits the KIT project, too. In Phase III of the KIT project, she is the co-principal investigator in charge of the development of school environment assessment, and she gives professional advice on its related issues.
Don't Worry, That's Ok is a storybook about a grandfather who teaches his grandchild philosophy of life. It is written by Hiroshi Ito and illustrated by Yani Huang. Interested readers can find its Japanese version at Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4062528630), and its Chinese version is available at YLib.com (https://www.books.com.tw/products/0010865013). Click https://youtu.be/aovZI-lOiw0 to listen to it in Chinese.