In this study the print awareness of 25 unschooled adult illiterates in the Netherlands was compared with that of 24 pre-reading children and of 23 low-educated literate adults with approximately four years of primary schooling. The illiterates were interviewed about their experiences with writing and all participants completed six assessments of print awareness in the language they preferred (first or second language). The outcomes revealed that the three groups did not differ in distinguishing conventional written signs from other visual signs, that both groups of non-readers differed significantly from low educated readers but not from each other in knowledge of logos, inscriptions and knowledge of the written register, while the adult illiterates performed significantly better than the children on grapheme knowledge. Adult illiterates in literate societies seem to be well informed about the uses and functions of written language and about what writing looks like, but like young children they are not good at reading environmental print out of context and in explaining what exactly is represented in writing. The variation in reactions within the group of illiterate adults could be related to existing models of emergent literacy. Implications for adult literacy education are discussed.
Reading and Writing – Springer Journals
Published: May 30, 2008
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