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Implicit Theories 1


Mothers' implicit theories of early literacy instruction:

Implications for children's reading and writing

Barbara D. DeBaryshe

University of Hawaii

Janeen C. Binder

University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Martha Jane Buell

University of Delaware

Early Child Development and Care, Vol. 160, pp. 119-131

Author Note

Barbara D. DeBaryshe, Center on the Family, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Janeen C. Binder , Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of

North Carolina at Greensboro.

Martha Jane Buell, Department of Individual and Family Studies, University of Delaware.

We would like to thank Deborah Cassidy, Vivian Halverson and Lois Yamauchi for

commenting on drafts of this manuscript.

Address correspondence to: Barbara D. DeBaryshe, University of Hawaii at Manoa,

Center on the Family, 2515 Campus Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822.

Implicit Theories 2


Subjects in this exploratory study were 19 five- to six-year-old children and their mothers.

Mothers completed surveys of family literacy practices and beliefs about early reading instruction

and children’s emergent literacy skills were assessed. Results showed that one group of mothers

held implicit theories that resembled whole language models of literacy instruction. A second

group of mothers held views that resembled a phonics orientation, while a smaller group of

mothers had more varied and idiosyncratic beliefs. Mothers’ implicit theories were associated

with their modeling of literacy behaviors, helping their children write, and with their children’s

independent exploration of writing and current levels of literacy skill. Results point to the

importance of parents’ implicit developmental theories and the need to understand how parental

belief systems affect the roles that families play in literacy acquisition.

Key words: Emergent literacy, writing, reading, parental beliefs, parent-child interaction,

school readiness, home influences

Implicit Theories 3

A central tenet of the emergent literacy perspective is that children acquire crucial

foundation skills and an understanding of literacy well before the onset of formal instruction

(NAEYC, 1998; Teale & Sulzby, 1986). The home environment is a particularly important setting

for the acquisition of such knowledge because children may have opportunities at home to (a)

become familiar with literacy artifacts, (b) observe the literacy activities of others, (c)

independently explore literate behaviors, (d) engage in joint reading and writing activities with

other people and (e) benefit from the teaching strategies that family members use when engaging

in joint literacy tasks. Considerable variation in both the quantity and quality of these home

literacy practices has been documented (Anderson & Stokes, 1984; DeBaryshe, 1995; Heath,

1983; Payne, Whitehurst, & Angell, 1994; Phillips & McNaughton, 1990; Teale & Sulzby, 1986)

and there is ample evidence that this variation is associated with individual differences in children’s

language and reading outcomes (DeBaryshe, 1993; Scarborough & Dobrich, 1994; Payne,

Whitehurst, & Angell, 1994).

Since home literacy practices have a substantial impact on children’s literacy development, it

is important to understand the origins of family differences in these practices. In the past decade,

increased attention has been given to the general topic of parental belief systems (Goodnow &

Collins, 1990; Holden & Edwards, 1989; Sigel, 1985). Overall, this literature shows a moderate

association between parental beliefs and the use of child-rearing practices that affect cognitive and

emotional development. Although the literature on parents’ beliefs about language and literacy

development is small, it does suggest that these beliefs influence the kinds of home experiences

that parents provide. For example, parents with lower literacy levels tend to believe that basic

reading and math skills should be mastered before school entry. These parents feel that academic

materials such as flashcards and workbooks are important toys for children to own and prefer

preschool and kindergarten programs with an academic focus. As parental literacy skills rise,

parents are more likely to feel their children should develop basic skills on their own initiative,

without pressure to use conventional forms (Fitzgerald, Spiegel, & Cunningham, 1991; Stipek,

Milburn, Clements & Daniels, 1992). On the average, parents of two- to five-year-olds believe
Implicit Theories 4

that the goals of reading aloud are to establish a love of literature, that children should be active

participants in read-aloud sessions, and that instruction in code skills is not yet appropriate

(DeBaryshe, 1995; DeBaryshe & Binder, 1994). However, variation in beliefs about the goals

and outcomes of reading aloud are associated with the frequency of home book-reading, the

number of books available at home, the age at which the parents began to read aloud to the child,

and the linguistic and cognitive richness of parent-child interaction during book-reading sessions

(DeBaryshe, 1995). These associations hold even when parental education and income are

controlled (DeBaryshe & Binder, 1994).

A limitation of the existing research is that it does not address parents' beliefs about how

children acquire literacy skills. We know something about what parents want their children to be

able to do, but very little about how parents believe these goals are attained (Stipek at al., 1992).

Even within professional circles there is considerable controversy concerning “best practices” in

literacy instruction. The professional debate between proponents of phonics vs. whole language

instructional techniques has been heated and highly visible (Adams, 1990; Goodman, 1992;

Greenberg, 1998a; Stahl, McKenna, & Pagnucco, 1994; Stahl & Miller, 1989). Briefly put,

proponents of the phonics orientation considers reading to be largely a bottom-up process. In this

process, children must master prerequisite skills of phonemic awareness, letter recognition and

letter-sound correspondence. Instructional methods emphasize practicing these skills in isolation

until sufficient mastery and automaticity is obtained before children attempt to derive meaning

from reading written texts. In contrast, proponents of the whole language orientation consider

reading to be a holistic, top-down process. Listening, speaking, reading and writing are seen as

inter-related aspects of the same underlying linguistic competence. The goal of instruction is to

“bring children into literacy in a ‘natural’ way by bridging the gap between children’s own

language competencies and written language” (Stahl & Miller, 1989, p. 88). Children are thought

to acquire literacy skills by immersion in a functional literate environment, just as they acquire

spoken language though immersion in a functional conversational environment. Whole language

instruction uses children’s literature in lieu of basal readers. Children’s nonconventional reading
Implicit Theories 5

and writing attempts are encouraged and treated as meaningful and functional. Code skills are

addressed as the need arises in the context of “authentic” literacy activities, but are not included

as isolated targets of instruction (Adams, 1990; Goodman, 1992; Stahl, et al., 1994; Stahl &

Miller, 1989).

The purpose of this small-scale exploratory study was to test a methodology for examining

parents’ implicit theories of early literacy instruction. Information on these theories was elicited

by open-ended questioning and structured survey items about informal instructional techniques

that parents might use at home. Specifically, we wished to determine whether parents’ ideas were

consistent with whole language approaches, phonics approaches, or provided a blend of the two.

We also explored whether parents’ instructional views are related to the kinds of literacy

experiences they provide for their children and the level of skill that their children display.

We expected that parents with more holistic views would engage in behaviors that mimic

whole-language instructional techniques while parents with componential views would use more

traditional instructional strategies. Specifically, whole language-oriented parents would (a) show

greater concern with their children’s motivation and enjoyment of reading and writing, (b) be

more likely to model literacy behaviors as a way of ensuring their children would see the

functional role these activities play, (c) engage in more frequent mediated reading and writing

activities, and (d) focus on meaning rather than code in teaching interactions. Parents whose

belief systems were more similar to the phonics orientation would engage in fewer holistic

activities such as writing letters together or reading aloud, and include more frequent informal

instruction in phonic skills. It was also expected that parents’ beliefs would be associated with

individual differences in children’s literacy achievement. Consistent with the literature on

differential outcomes of classroom teaching methods, children of phonics-oriented parents were

expected to show more conventional reading and writing skills (Adams, 1990; Evans & Carr,

1985). Children of whole language-oriented parents were predicted to show stronger vocabulary

and story grammar skills, and greater interest and confidence in experimenting with print activities

(Feng, 1992; Graham & Harris, 1994; Shaw, 1991).

Implicit Theories 6



Subjects were 19 children between the ages of 64 and 77 months (M = 69.9 months, SD =

3.67) and their mothers1. The present study was a follow-up to a study of parent-child reading

interaction at age two (DeBaryshe, Caulfield, Witty, Sidden, Holt, & Reich, 1991). Families were

originally recruited via newspaper announcements that advertised the opportunity to participate in

research on the effects of reading aloud. Subjects were from a medium-sized southeastern U.S.

city and the surrounding county area. Ten children were boys and nine were girls. Eighty-five

percent were European-American and 15% were African-American. Maternal education ranged

from a high school diploma (21%) to a college (32%) or graduate degree (47%). Most of the

families were middle to upper-middle class. Seventeen children attended kindergarten (none were

in the same classroom or school), two were still in preschool (one due to a late birth date, the

other by parental choice), and one was home schooled.


Each child was visited twice at his or her home, with visits spaced approximately two

weeks apart. On the first visit, mothers completed three questionnaires and a short open-ended

interview while their children participated in a literacy skill assessment battery. A tape recorder

and the book Rotten Ralph's Show and Tell (Gantos, 1989) were left with the family. Mothers

were asked to read the book with their child four times in order to familiarize the child with the

story. On the second home visit, children were asked to read or pretend to read Rotten Ralph's

Show and Tell to the experimenter. Children also wrote a letter with their mothers to a person of

their own choice. The writing and reading tasks were recorded on videotape.


Family Survey (FS). The FS was designed to obtain information on family characteristics

such as income, maternal education, ethnicity and child's school placement. The FS is based on a

version used with preschool populations that showed acceptable item test-retest reliability (r's = .

79 - .92) (DeBaryshe, 1992).

Implicit Theories 7

Home Activities Survey (HAS). Parents' and children's literacy interest and engagement

were assessed with the HAS, a questionnaire designed for this study that was based upon a

successful survey used with preschool children (DeBaryshe, 1992). The HAS contains 68 items

that are answered on a seven-point scale. Examples of items include: “How often does an adult

in your family use a typewriter, word processor or computer?", “How much does your child enjoy

reading with you?", and “How often does your child ask what a letter is called or how it sounds?"

Ten composite variables were derived from the HAS by summing conceptually related

items. These variables represented parents' and children's enjoyment of reading and writing, the

frequency of parent-child joint reading and writing, and the frequency of parents' and children's

solo engagement in reading and writing. The number of items contributing to each composite

ranged from two to six.

Reading Instruction Belief Questionnaire (RIBQ). The RIBQ was adapted from a

questionnaire used by Evans and Baraball (1991). Questions address goals and methods for

helping children learn about reading. Fourteen items are written to reflect either whole language-

or phonics-oriented views about literacy instruction (see Table 1). Parents rate the degree to

which they endorse each item on a 7-point scale with high scores indicating strong endorsement.

Internal consistency for the RIBQ is high; coefficients alpha for phonics and whole language items

are .89 and .83, respectively.

Insert Table 1 about here

Open-ended belief questions. Parents were asked two open-ended questions about

reading: “How do you think children learn to read?” and “Are there things you do, or did, to help

your child learn about reading?”. They were asked the same two questions in regards to writing.

Parents’ answers were recorded in written form. Answers were later transcribed, separated into

unique comments, and sorted by content to yield dominant themes. Inter-rater agreement for

these sorts was .86 (computed as # agreements divided by total agreements plus disagreements).
Implicit Theories 8

Parent-child joint writing interaction. Videotapes of the mother-child letter-writing session

were coded using time-sampling procedures. The presence or absence of two categories of

behavior was recorded in 15-second intervals; each video session lasted for a total of ten minutes

duration. Conventional talk involved any discussion of letter formation, phonics, spelling or

mechanical conventions such as writing from left to right or including a salutation or closing to

the letter. Meaning talk included any conversation about the semantic content of the intended

written message or the effect the message would have on the reader. Inter-rater agreement

(computed as # agreements divided by total agreements plus disagreements) was .96 for

conventional talk and .92 for meaning talk.

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT). Children's language quotients on the

PPVT served as our measure of receptive vocabulary. Reported split-half reliabilities range from .

79-.84 for five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half-year-olds. Median test-retest reliabilities are .79

(Dunn & Dunn, 1981). PPVT scores from the age two assessment were used as a covariate in

some analyses. Different forms of the PPVT (L vs. M) were used at ages two and six.

Test of Early Reading Ability-2 (TERA). Reading quotients on the TERA served as our

norm-referenced measure of reading. The TERA is based on emergent literacy models, and covers

both preconventional and conventional skills. Coefficients alpha for five- and six-year olds range

from .89 to .93, and the alternate forms reliability is .79 (Reid, Hresko, & Hammill, 1989).

Story grammar. The story-telling task was based upon story-grammar research conducted

by Morrison, Frazier, McMahon, Fornwald, and Trabasso (1992). Children were shown five

laminated pictures portraying a coherent story. Children were asked to tell a story using the

pictures. The oral stories were audiotaped, and later transcribed and scored for the use of nine

aspects of story structure: (1) introduction, (2) setting, (3) characters mentioned, (4) problem

identified, (5) goal, (6) plan of action, (7) understanding of accidental occurrences, (8) action, and

(9) results/conclusion. The highest possible score on this task was 26. Because of the small

sample size, this task (as well as the print task and emergent reading level described below) were
Implicit Theories 9

independently scored by two trained coders. Disagreements (which were infrequent, occurring in

less than 5 percent of the samples) were resolved by discussion and consensus.

Clay Print Task. The print task was modified from Clay (1979), and consisted of the

following four sub-tasks: (a) letter identification, (b) copying a printed sentence, (c) sentence

dictation, and (d) asking the child to write all the words he or she knew within a five-minute

period. A total writing score was computed by summing the z-scores for each of the sub-tasks.

Emergent reading level. The videotapes of the children reading Rotten Ralph's Show and

Tell (Gantos, 1989) were analyzed using Sulzby's (1985) classification scheme for emergent

reading. Children are rated on a seven-level ordinal scale that orders the conventionality of

picture- versus print-governed reading attempts. Barnhart (1991) reports good criterion-related

validity for this method.


Structure of Parents’ Implicit Theories

The RIBQ items were subjected to a cluster analysis. This procedure sorts parents into

groups based upon similar patterns of responses across questionnaire items. A three cluster

solution provided the most readily interpreted results. Clusters 1, 2, and 3 were labeled Code

(n=6), Meaning (n=8) and Unique (n=5), respectively. On the average, Code group parents gave

highest endorsement to phonic techniques (M = 5.44, SD = .57 on a 7-point scale where 4

represents “medium emphasis”) and medium endorsement of whole language techniques (M =

4.10, SD = .65). Meaning group parents gave the highest endorsement of whole language

techniques (M = 5.48, SD = .58) and a more moderate endorsement of phonics (M = 3.69, SD

= .59). Parents in the Unique group gave low endorsement to both sets of items (M = 3.37 and

2.43, SD = .54 and .69 for whole language and phonics, respectively).

Family Demographics and Belief Systems

The groups were not significantly different in terms of income, ethnicity, child age or

school placement. The groups did differ on child sex, 2 (2, n = 19) = 5.81, p = .05, and maternal

education, 2 (6, n = 19) = 5.92, p = .05. All parents in the Unique group were parents of boys.
Implicit Theories 10

Meaning group parents were more highly educated than Unique group parents.

Home Literacy Practices and Belief Systems

To test hypotheses concerning implicit theories and home literacy practices, a series of

one-way MANOVAs were conducted with belief group as the between-subjects factor. Tests of

univariate effects were conducted if a significant mutivariate effect was found; this procedure

guards against inflated Type I errors.

Enjoyment. The four dependent measures were: parents’ interest in reading, parents’

interest in writing, children’s interest in reading, and children’s interest in writing. The

multivariate test was nonsignificant, indicating that maternal belief grouping had no association

with family members’ interest and enjoyment in literacy activities.

Frequency of literacy activities. The MANOVA on frequency measures had six DV's

representing the frequency of parent, child, and joint reading and writing, respectively. A

significant multivariate affect was found, F(12, 24) = 2.28, p = .04, effect size = .53. Univariate F

tests and Newman-Keuls post-hoc comparisons indicated that Meaning group mothers read for

work or pleasure more often than Code mothers. Meaning group mothers helped their children

write more often, and had children who did more independent writing than Unique group mothers

(see Table 2).

Insert Table 2 about here

Mother-child Interaction

Because the two measures of observed interactive behavior were not significantly

correlated, univariate rather than multivariate tests were conducted. The ANOVA for

conventional talk during the letter writing tasks was nonsignificant. The ANOVA for meaning talk

only showed a marginal trend toward significance, F(2, 15) = 2.85, p = .09. Means were in the

direction of the most meaning-related talk for the Unique group.

Child Literacy Skills

Implicit Theories 11

A MANCOVA on belief grouping was conducted using PPVT, TERA, Clay, emergent

reading level and story grammar scores as the five dependent measures of child literacy skill. To

control for the expected strong association between current literacy skills and prior oral language,

age two PPVT score was used as a covariate. Groups did not differ on the covariate.

A significant multivariate effect for belief grouping was found, F(10,20) = 4.90, p =.001,

effect size = .71. Univariate effects were found for TERA, story grammar and Clay scores and a

marginal univariate effect was found for the PPVT. Post hoc tests revealed that children in the

Code group had higher story grammar scores than children in the meaning group and higher Clay

scores than children in the Unique group. Unique group children had the lowest TERA reading

scores (see Table 2).

Open-ended Themes

Each unique comment made in response to the open-ended questions was transcribed and

sorted by semantic content. Results of the content analysis are shown in Table 3. Themes that

were mentioned by at least three mothers are displayed. There were also 8 rare themes, i.e., those

mentioned by only one or two parents.

When talking about children learning to read, all mothers discussed the importance of

reading aloud and the need to develop an understanding of code functions. Ways to instill code

knowledge included drill on letter identification, use of environmental print, and telling the child

what a printed word says. Modeling and motivation were also mentioned by a sizable minority.

Meaning group mothers were the most likely to mention environmental print and nonbook media

such as computer games. Only Code group mothers talked about the need for children to read

independently; this group was also the most likely to talk about going to the library and the least

likely to mention modeling. No mothers in the Unique group mentioned use of the library or

introducing reading aloud at an early age.

Responses about learning to write predominantly were about fine motor control and

mastering the mechanics of letter formation via repeated practice; this emphasis was shared by all

three belief groups. As with reading, modeling and motivation were also mentioned. Meaning
Implicit Theories 12

group mothers stood out in the extent to which they discussed intrinsic motivation, emergent

developmental sequences, and positive carry-over from reading aloud. Code group mothers were

the most likely to mention phonics.

Seventy-one percent of the rare themes were provided by mothers in the Unique group.

Examples of rare themes included telling oral stories, tracing the outlines of letters on the child’s

back, and not knowing how children learn literacy skills. These open-ended responses

corroborate the results of the RIBQ, suggesting that the Unique group mothers are less likely to

make use of core whole language or phonics instructional techniques and that they tend to employ

an individualized set of instructional methods.

Insert Table 3 about here


The overall goal of this study was to pilot the feasibility of a method for examining the

content and correlates of parents’ implicit theories of early literacy instruction. Despite the small

sample size, the large number of statistically significant findings suggests that these methods could

be fruitfully used in larger investigations of parental belief systems.

The first major finding was that most parents in this sample held eclectic views on early

literacy instruction. Parents valued both code knowledge and the derivation of meaning and
reported using strategies to promote both sets of skills. Thus, parents endorse what many reading

educators see as optimal practice--the simultaneous focus on top-down and bottom-up strategies

(Adams, 1990; Feng, 1992; Greenberg, 1998a, 1998b; NAEYC, 1998; Stahl et. al., 1994; Stahl &

Miller, 1989).

Parents’ implicit theories are of pragmatic importance if they have consequences for

children’s development. For example, if children’s learning is enhanced when both the home and

school settings support similar goals, then the above-mentioned finding that parents, like teachers,

hold eclectic views is good news. Early childhood educators stress the value of informal literacy
Implicit Theories 13

experiences provided by both teachers and parents (NAEYC, 1998). Presumably, parents are

more effective partners in their children’s education and are more likely to provide frequent,

enriching home literacy experiences when their views on literacy acquisition correspond with

those of early childhood professionals.

Our data also suggest that individual differences in parental literacy beliefs have

consequences for what children do and what children learn. Although most parents in our sample

could be described as eclectic, we found different patterns, or degrees of emphasis within this

overall eclecticism. Children of more meaning-oriented mothers in our sample experienced more

frequent maternal modeling of reading and more frequent mother-child writing episodes; these

children were also the most likely to write on their own. Perhaps because these mothers were

least concerned with conventional correctness, they were more encouraging of their children's

emergent attempts which, in turn, motivated their children to experiment with writing on their

own. Beliefs were also associated with child literacy skills. Children of more code-oriented

mothers had the highest tested performance in the areas of vocabulary, story grammar, and

conventionalized reading and writing skills. The overall disadvantage fell on children of mothers

who endorsed neither code- nor meaning-based strategies; their children showed the least

developed literacy skills. Parents who have difficulty articulating how a skill is acquired may be

less optimal tutors than parents who follow a clear conceptual model.

While it is premature to make causal statements, our results justify further study of causal

mechanisms. A large literature on parent-child verbal interaction has demonstrated how parental

input can affect oral language competence. A similar initiative is needed to study how the social

environment affects competence in written language. For example, do parental beliefs contribute

to children’s literacy outcomes via their impact on parents’ practices, or do parents’ ideas more

simply reflect their children’s developmental history and progress that was itself caused by other


The limitations of this study must be acknowledged. First, the sample size was small and

homogenous in terms of social class. Second, observations of parent-child literacy interactions

Implicit Theories 14

were limited to one 10-minute sample. Third, replication will be needed to determine whether the

three belief patterns identified in our cluster analysis would indeed generalize across samples and

whether these belief patterns are consistently associated with individual differences in home

practices and child outcomes. However, our results suggest that this general topic of study, as

well as our particular method of investigation would yield informative results.

Implicit Theories 15


20 mothers were interviewed, but one interview contained so much missing data as to be

unusable. Mothers were the target of this study because our experience with similar studies in this

community yielded extremely low participation rates for fathers. Only one father in this sample

wished to participate in the interview. Data from his interview are not included in the current

Implicit Theories 16


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Implicit Theories 19

Table 1

RIBQ items

Whole Language Items

Having broad reading interests.

Having confidence to guess at printed words, using a variety of cues.

Understanding that reading and writing are much like talking, the purpose is communicating


Knowing that reading and writing can be useful for many activities besides reading books.

Accepting attempts at writing as meaningful, even if they are incorrect (“reading” scribbles

as if they were real writing).

Recognizing unknown words by “what makes sense” from the other words and pictures on

the page.

Telling the child what the word is.

Using background knowledge that the child already has, rather than information from

the text to figure out an unknown word.

Phonics Items

Being able to sound out words on his or her own.

Being able to read aloud accurately.

Being able to match the sounds in spoken words with the letter combinations used to

represent them.

Learning to write letters and words correctly.

Sounding out letters and groups of letters.

Rules about how letter combinations sound (“e” at the end of the word makes the

vowel sound long)

Implicit Theories 20

Table 2

Descriptive Statistics and Univariate Test Results by Belief Group



Meaning Code Unique

Variable M M M p Contrast


Literacy Enjoymenta

Mom Likes Read 13.63 12.50 13.20 .27

Mom Likes Write 11.63 10.50 8.80 .14

Child Likes Read 13.62 12.50 12.40 .16

Child Likes Write 12.00 11.17 9.40 .38

Frequency of Literacy Activityb

Mom Read 26.12 23.17 25.60 .02 meaning > code

Mom Write 29.50 25.33 24.00 .12

Child Read 36.75 33.67 35.00 .21

Child Write 27.37 24.33 21.60 .006 meaning> unique

Joint Read 12.88 12.17 11.40 .46

Joint Write 13.12 12.33 11.00 .03 meaning > unique


Implicit Theories 21

Table 2 continued

Mother-Child Interaction

Conventional Talkc 28.25 44.33 20.00 .25

Meaning Talkd 4.87 6.50 10.75 .09

Child Literacy Skillse, f

PPVT 113.10 125.71 112.95 .06

TERA 117.00 118.62 101.85 .004 code, meaning > unique

Sulzby Level 7.19 8.15 6.66 .74

Story Grammar 8.75 16.48 10.41 .008 code > meaning

Clay (z score) .65 1.41 -2.76 .02 code > unique

Note. aF(8, 28) = 1.04, p = .43

F(12, 24) = 2.28, p = .04
F(2, 15) = 1.53, p = .25.
F(2, 15) = 2.85, p = .09.
F(10, 20) = 4.90, p = .001
Tabled values are adjusted for covariate
Implicit Theories 22

Table 3

Themes emerging from content analysis of open-ended questions about reading and writing

Learn about reading Learn about writing

Themes about code knowledge Themes about mechanics of writing

Environmental Print (n = 10) Copying (n = 10)

Reading signs and boxes. You write a letter and they copy it.

Phonics (n = 8) Provide materials (n = 10)

They should learn phonetically. Provide markers, crayons and paper.

Sight words (n = 7) Fine motor development (n = 9)

Sight reading for small words. Encourage drawing and fine motor skills.

Letter identification (n = 4) Practice (n = 9)

Recognizing letters and ABC’s. Practice and repetition.

Answering child’s queries (n = 4) ABC’s and writing own name (n = 3)

Tell him what things say when he asks. Teach him how to write his name

Letter-sound drill (n = 3) Connect-the dots (n = 3)

Use flash cards, they tell the letter’s sound Make a dotted outline for the child to trace.

Themes about modeling and motivation Themes about modeling and motivation

Modeling (n = 7) Imitation (n = 5)
Adults set an example by reading She just picked up a pencil, imitating me.

Motivation (n = 7) Encouragement (n = 4)
Make reading fun. We encouraged her

Inner motivation (n = 5)
. Children will have a desire (to write).

Implicit Theories 23

Table 3 cont’d.

Themes about reading aloud Other themes

Read aloud (nonspecific) (n = 16) Phonics (n = 6)

Read to her. Sounding it out.

Read aloud from an early age (n = 7) Read aloud (n = 4)

Read aloud from infancy. By reading to him.

Books available (n = 6) Authentic experiences (n = 4)

Provide books. Let him write down words on the grocery list.

Use library (n = 4) Developmental sequence (n = 3)

Go to the library. Don’t learn to write until they can read.

Independent reading (n = 4) Spell for them (n = 3)

Let him try (reading) by himself Spelling to her while she writes.

School work (n = 3)
She’s learning at school.

Other themes

Media (n = 4)
Tapes of books, computer games.

Developmental sequence (n = 4)
There’s a progression: sight, sounds,
put sounds together into words.

Picture focus (n = 4)
Point to pictures in books.

Note. n represents the number of parents who discussed a theme.

Examples of responses are in italics.