aspect of using a story approach to literacy is one of its most attractive
features and its importance is highlighted in the new language curriculum where
it is listed as learning outcome (NEPS, 2016; Ireland, 2015). As reading successfully is a
critical motivator for reading, teachers should always ensure to select books
from a wide-range of genres. The books itself should be of interest to the
reader, intrinsically enjoyable, challenging and socially meaningful to them (NEPS, 2016; Tyner, 2009). The book should also have a
logical story-line, contain memorable characters and be suitable for the age of
the child. For example, ‘Ada’s Violin’ was chosen for children at the beginning
of 2nd class children when they were all 7 or 8 years old, as it is
recommended for children aged 4-8 (The Book Depository, 2016: Simon &
Schuster, 2016). It also it follows a clear story-line of Ada on her journey to
becoming a violinist and Ada, her family and Chávez are all extremely memorable individuals.
Selecting appropriate books is often a challenging aspect of using a story
approach to literacy in the early years. This can be made further challenging
for teachers in schools that do not have an extensive school library and so
their choice for selection is limited (Coghlan, 2003).
An emerging body of research has shown the power stories have in
bringing so many emotions to life (Krznaric, 2015; Nikolajeva, 2013). For example, one benefit of the
story approach to literature is that is the children learn to empathise with
and discuss the feelings of the characters and the various dilemmas they must
overcome. ‘Ada’s Violin’ for example can be used to introduce the concept for
empathy to children where they can empathise with the daily struggles Ada
often have an interesting storyline that can serve to present, consolidate and
extend children’s knowledge on different topics. For example, ‘Ada’s Violin’
informs students about different parts of the world, poverty and recycling. Further,
the introduction of foreign cultures, races and
religions to children in stories, like Ada, a young girl who grows up in a slum
in Paraguay, helps them develop their socio-cultural understanding and respect for
others (Ellis et al., 2014). Stories like Ada’s Violin also help
create a powerful medium for creating a meaningful context for the children. This
constructivist, interactive process, where the reader constructs meaning from
the text has been highly emphasised in many studies (Kucirkova, 2014; Yussof, Rasid Jamian, Roslan,
Hamzah, & Kabilan, 2012; Ruddell & Unrau, 2004).
the benefits of using stories when teaching literacy are plentiful, there are
also some challenges that a teacher should carefully consider before
implementing this approach. Despite teachers in the Phase 1 Primary Curriculum
Review denoting ‘children’s literacy’ as their biggest success in implementing
the English Curriculum, the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy reported that 1 in
10 children have serious literacy difficulties (DES, 2011; NCCA, 2005).
Further, a 2016 NEPS reports revealed that learning support in literacy is
currently being offered to 20% of children in first and second class (NEPS, 2016).
This highlights how essential it is for teachers to have an extensive knowledge
of literacy development that is informed by both evidence-based best practice
and professional wisdom (Morrow & Gambrell, 2011; NEPS, 2016).
Further, it is important that teachers are offered high-quality opportunities
for continued professional development so that they can continuously improve
their skills and instructional practices throughout their careers.
quality of instruction from teachers is particularly important in relation to
literacy, with international research showing that the provision of quality
instruction in the early years of schools is highly associated with the
achievement of age and skill appropriate reading level targets (Solity, Deavers, Kerfoot, Crane, & Cannon, 2000).
Teachers need to carefully consider how they are going to approach and use a
story in the classroom as this will essentially determine the effectiveness of
the lesson. For example, a shared reading activity, like in the lessons planned
above, could be employed. Shared reading has been shown to effectively support
both the language and literacy development of children. This type of reading is
guided by the teacher who helps students
develop independent reading strategies in a safe learning environment (Button & Johnson, 1997; NEPS, 2016).
Regardless of the strategy chosen, the children should be supported by
scaffolding learning to aid them learn in their zone of proximal development
and vocabulary, word analysis and comprehension skills should be explicitly
taught. The children should also always be considered active agents in their learning
and construct meaning based on their prior knowledge (Antonacci, 2000; Kelly, 2017; NEPS, 2016; Spencer,
Goldstein, & Kaminski, 2012).
way teachers can approach the use of stories in literature in the early years
of primary school is by encouraging students to personalise stories, an
activity that can be both an oral language and writing task. A wide-range of
research has highlighted various benefits associated with the use of
personalised stories in literature for children, including that it engages them
in story-telling, helps promote a positive attitude to reading, aids vocabulary
development and can even support readers who are struggling in class (Bracken, 1982; Kucirkova, 2014; Natalia Kucirkova,
One example of how children could personalise a story is by inventing
alternative endings to them (Kucirkova, 2014).
By placing an emphasis on individualised learning environments, children become
more intimately involved in their own learning. This greatly enhances their
intrinsic motivation because they are more actively involved in the learning
process and it provides them with a sense of ownership over their own work. Further,
there are numerous story-making apps available if teachers wish to integrate
technology into their literacy lesson (Kucirkova, 2014).
children now immersed in a media and technology-rich environment from a young
age, to become entirely literate in the 21st century children should
also be competent in using 21st-century technologies. It has become apparent
that these advances in technology have brought about new ways of representing
stories to children, presenting many incredible
opportunities to improve children’s literacy. Digital literacy, often referred to as ‘new
literacy’ is an emerging concept of literacy that involve the production of
multimodal texts, disseminated on technologies such as iPads, tablets,
computers etc (NEPS, 2016).
The importance of digital literacy is recognised in the Literacy and Numeracy
for Learning and Life Strategy where it aims to ‘increase awareness of the
importance of digital literacy’ and to include a ‘students’ ability to read
digital material as part of the national assessments of English reading’ (DES, 2011).
books (e-books), where books can be read online or downloaded to different
devices like iPads or tablets, are becoming an increasingly popular. They can
provide further functionality to traditional textbooks such as they can include
interactive content and student activities (PDST, 2012).
A Morris et al., study (2013) however revealed
that children who read a paper book were able to recall more details from the
story as well as the order of events, in comparison to those who read the
e-book (Parish-Morris, Mahajan,
Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, & Collins, 2013). There are also conflicting studies
published in relation to whether children communicate more when reading from
e-books or from paper books (Korat & Or, 2010; Moody, Justice, & Cabell,
Despite these conflicting studies, it remains unanimous amongst research that
while technology plays an important role in modern literary instruction, it
should only be viewed as another way in which the learning experience for
children can be enriched and should never fully replace paper books for reading
activities (Salmon, 2014)
conclusion, literacy is an integral component of
learning. Its importance is such that the ‘National Strategy to Improve
Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020’recommended
that literacy instruction should be extended throughout all curriculum subjects
In order for individuals to fully participate in society, it is essential that
they acquire basic literacy skills. They are part and parcel of everyday life and
therefore it is vital that children develop language and literacy skills from
an early age.
The language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing are very much
interrelated and therefore it is important for teachers incorporate each of
them in their lessons and follow a balanced approach to literacy. A story
approach can effectively facilitate this balance and can undoubtedly profoundly
impact literacy development in the early years of primary school in a positive
manner. Young children have an innate love for stories and it is of utmost
importance that this is fostered from an early age, both in the home and school