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CREATE Overview

Conceptual foundations of CREATE


CREATE: The Big Picture

Understanding how to best support the literacy development for children beginning with birth and how to address the unique challenges encountered by families whose first language is not English is critical for our increasingly globalized context. In order to develop such understanding the CREATE team proposed to engage in comprehensive research involving the interaction of families, community members, educators, and prospective educators working together toward those goals.

More specifically, we proposed to explore the ways families, community members, educators, and prospective educators can interact to enhance literacy development for children overall and English language learners in particular through the use of stories gathered from families as well as from local and distal communities.

We envisioned our research as taking place in early learning centers located in school districts serving diverse neighborhoods in Tucson, Arizona. For this study the children, their respective families, the in-service teachers, university faculty, and pre-service teachers interact with the purpose to promote literacy development. We make use of a design-based research approach (Cobb et. al., 2003) to account for, to understand, and to address a complex interplay of factors that contribute to the literacy development of all children and of children who are speakers of other languages, in particular

Our work was conceptualized and planned around four overarching principles:

Principle 1: Promoting early childhood educators' understanding of the cultural knowledge and skills (“funds of knowledge”) within diverse cultural communities

“Funds of knowledge” refers to the “historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being” (Moll, Amanti, Neff and Gonzalez, 1992). This understanding has been successfully used as a framework for developing innovative teaching and learning contexts.

Principle 2: Using literature as a base for children’s understanding of themselves and others.

Through literature, children see reflections of themselves through balancing reason and emotion. They are transported to other places and times and are able to envision alternative visions for their lives and of the world. A major source for stories in the project about which we will report is Worlds of Words ( Its focus on international literature and its global orientation provide the resources and activities for the community center where our research takes place.

Principle 3: Involing families in literacy education for children – and for teachers.

When family members are invited and become involved in their children's learning, two important things happen: children are more motivated and teachers and parents form positive relationships that foster their children's development. The model for our centers are the Tertulias (social gatherings with literary or artistic foci that are common throughout Ibero-America) that engage parents in helping with school related activities.

Principle 4: Providing prospective and practicing teachers and teacher educators with opportunities to work and reflect together in community and school settings.

Teacher education programs that provide opportunities for student educators to engage in practice with participating professionals who do connect teaching and students' learning have proven to be effective programs that promote sustainable change. To be fully realized, this principle necessitates moving the teacher education programs from university settings into early childhood and community settings.

We have now begun implementing each of the theoretical principles stated above. Data sources for our research include university faculty, administrators, and students who are participating in the program redesign. Teachers and administrators from the district, parents, and the young children themselves also provide data on the program redesign process and the evolving impact. Data to this point include meeting notes, field notes, and interviews. The evaluation and reflection on these data, in turn lead to consolidating, improving, or changing instructional practices that support novice and experienced teachers’ capacity to improve literacy for young children and their families. Developing and studying these practices’ impact on the literacy learning of participants are the major foci of our research. Also of note, through the design-base approach to this research, we have paid special attention to sociocultural and historical factors that mediate learning.

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