The first step and the first word

Developmental Psychology - Children's Literacy Development
March 25, 2005

The format of Developmental Psychology is very different from other developmental books. It is a cross between a comic and CliffsNotes. Each section is short and to the point. At times this means that a lot of useful information is not included or is only alluded to. The authors have tried to examine both cognitive and social development from birth to adolescence.

Unfortunately, many interesting topics are only outlined. However, the text is easy to read and I think may be useful for students when they first learn about child development.

A short summary is provided at the start of each chapter, followed by a list of "learning outcomes". I realise that this is now a buzz phrase in education, but I doubt a reader needs to be informed that one of the learning outcomes in a chapter on sensory perceptual development is to "understand the main patterns of sensory perceptual development". The overall layout of the book is slightly chaotic, although the assessments at the end of each chapter are clear and informative. I am not sure this book really works as a textbook, certainly not for university level students.

Instead, I would suggest it be used as a concise dictionary of introductory child development.

Children's Literacy Development is an excellent introduction to reading development and impairment. The introductory chapter leads with a broad and detailed discussion of the ways in which culture can affect literacy development. The author makes a comparison between Chinese and English readers, and in so doing discusses which aspects of learning to read may be universal and which environmental. The next few chapters focus on different features of language development, such as phonological processing, morphological awareness and orthographic skills. Each chapter critically evaluates recent research in the field as well as giving a general background to each topic. The final three chapters look at dyslexia, bilingualism and reading comprehension.

Commonalities and differences between English and Chinese readers are examined in all of these chapters. For example, in the chapter on dyslexia, the author discusses the fact that the level at which phonological awareness is important is different for English and Chinese readers.

There is a relative paucity of textbooks in literacy development compared with areas such as developmental psychology. This is a good book that does the field justice. I would recommend it to anyone interested in how children learn to read.

Janine Spencer is lecturer in developmental psychology, Brunel University.

Developmental Psychology

Author - Dianne Catherwood and Rachel Gillibrand
Publisher - Crucial
Pages - 168
Price - £12.00
ISBN - 1 903337 14 3

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