School of Library and Information Studies

LIS 598 Emergent Literacy

Course Outline  


Allison Taylor McBryde (email
Coordinator of Children’s and Young Adult Services, North Vancouver District Public Library, North Vancouver, B.C.
Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies.


This course will provide an introduction to early (or emergent) literacy research and how it can be used to enhance library services for children from birth to age five, their parents and care-givers. Research will focus on language development and how we can apply that research in designing developmentally appropriate programming. The course will examine the critical role of parents and the supportive role of family, care-givers and librarians in developing early literacy (or pre-reading) skills.


Upon completion of this course students will:

  1. have an awareness of the wealth of research and resources available on children’s language development and emergent literacy.
  2. be aware of current trends in emergent literacy or family literacy programming and be familiar with the variety of services for children and parents that public libraries can and do provide to augment early learning
  3. understand the critical importance and role of the parent and care-givers in early learning
  4. be able to apply the research to developmentally appropriate programming through the acquisition and evaluation of new rhymes, songs, and stories


  • Current research on early learning and language and literacy from birth to age five
  • The growth of the child’s pre-reading skills, social skills, and cognitive development
  • The library’s role in advocating for and promoting services for the family and early literacy initiatives
  • The library’s role as a provider of services for families and young and the creation and evaluation of developmentally appropriate programming.
  • Community support for early literacy.

Recommended Resources - Highly recommended

Dickinson, D. K. & Tabors, P. O. (2001) Beginning literacy with language: young children learning at home and school. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Pub.

Dickinson, D.K. & Neuman, S.B. (2002) Handbook of early literacy research. New York: Guilford Research

Dickinson, D.K. & Neuman, S.B. (2006) Handbook of early literacy research: Volume 2. New York: Guilford Research

Eliot, Lise. (2009) Pink brain, Blue brain, how small differences grow into troublesome gaps – and what we can do about it. New York: Houghton Mifflin

Ezell, H.K. & Justice, L.M. (2005). Shared storybook reading: Building young children’s language and emergent literacy skills. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Friederici, Angela D. & Thierry, Guillaume, editors (2008) Early Language Development. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Gopnik, Alison (2009). The Philosophical baby. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Guernsey, Lisa ( 2007) Into the minds of babes: how screen time affects children from birth to age five. New York: Basic Books.

Gurian, M. and Stevens, K. (2005) The minds of boys: Saving our sons from falling behind in school and life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hall, N, Larson, J. and Marsh, J. (2003). Handbook of early childhood literacy. Thousand oaks, CA: Sage.

Hoff, Erika and Marilyn Shatz. (2007). Blackwell Handbook of Language Development. Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Justice, L.M. & Vukelish, C. (2008) Achieving excellence in preschool literacy instruction. New York: Guildford.

Krashen, Stephen D. (2003) Explorations in language acquisition. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Krashen, S.D. (2004) The Power of reading: insights from the research. Second edition. Westport: Libraries Unlimited

Levitin, Daniel (2006) This is your brain on music. New York: Dutton.

Lilly, E. and Green, C. (2004). Developing partnerships with families through children’s literature. Colombus: Pearson / Merrill Prentice Hall.

McCardle, P and Hoff, E. (2006) Childhood bilingualism: research on infancy through school age. Toronto: Multilingual matters.

McGuinness, D. (2004). Growing a reader from birth: your child’s path from language to literacy. New York: W.W. Norton.

McGuinness, D. (2005) Language development and learning to read: the scientific study of how language development affects reading skill. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Neuman, S.B. (2001). Access for all: Closing the book gap for children in early education. Newark, ILL: International Reading Association.

Neuman, S. B. and Roskos, K. A. (1998). Children achieving: best practices in early literacy. Newark, NJ: International Reading Association.

Neuman, S. B., Copple, C, & Bredekamp, S. (2000). Learning to read and write: developmentally appropriate practices for young children. National Association for Education.

Phillips, L.M., Hayden, R., & Norris, S.P (2006) Family literacy matters: a longitudinal parent-child literacy intervention study. Calgary: Detselig.

Roskos, K.A., Tabors, P.O. & Lenhart. L.A. (2004). Oral language and early literacy in preschool: Talking, reading, writing. Newark: DE: International Reading Association.

Ross, C.S., McKechnie, L., Rothbauer, P.M. (2006) Reading matters: what the research reveals about reading, libraries, and community Wesport: Libraries Unlimited

Sacks, Oliver (2007) Musicophilia: tales of music and the brain. New York: Knopf.

Tabors, Paton (2008) One child: two languages: a guide for early childhood educators of children learning English as a second language. Baltimore, MD. : Paul H. Brookes

Taylor, Denny, editor. (1997). Many families, many literacies: an international declaration of principles. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Trott, Kate, Dobbinson, S, Griffiths, P. (2004) The Child language reader. New York: Routledge.

Wasik, B. H. (2004). Handbook of Family Literacy. Mahwah, N.J.:Lawrence Erlbaum.

Willms, J. Douglas. (2002). Vulnerable children: findings from Canada’s national longitudinal survey of children and youth. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.

Wolf, Maryanne (2007). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. New York: HarperCollins

York, S. (2003) Roots and wings: affirming culture in early childhood programs. Revised ed. St Paul, MN.: Redleaf.

Zigler, E., Singer, D.G. & Bishop-Josef, S.J. (2004). Children’s play: the roots of reading. Zero to Three.

Before class begins

In order to prepare for class, please read approximately 50 pages from ONE of the following web based resources OR listen to the CBC documentary from Ideas called “The Brains of Babes” which can be streamed.

AND please read approximately 50 pages (one or two chapters) from each of three of the books listed above. Record your thoughts/ facts discovered during the reading / listening in a reading diary to be handed in on the first day of class. You are looking for connections between the research in language acquisition or development and how that is relevant to selection of children’s materials, or programming for preschoolers. The reading diary will be no more than five pages, due the first night of class. (Ie: one page of notes on any one resource (Ie: 1 web/media and 3 book resources for approximately four or five pages maximum.)

“Measuring child development to leverage ECD policy and investment” by J. Fraser Mustard and Mary E. Young available online at

“The Long Reach of Early Childhood” in The Early Years Study 2: Putting Science into Action available online at

“Experience based Brain Development” available at

“Developing Early Literacy” from the National Institute for Literacy available online at

I recognize that it might be difficult to source of the book titles at your local library. Most are available at the UofA. Some are popular titles directed at a general audience, other are more academically or research focused.


  1. Reading Diary reflecting findings or pre-class reading / listening. Approximately 4 – 5 pages due the first night of class.
  2. Students are asked to come to class Saturday prepared to present one element of programming which is appropriate for early learning. This may be a song, story or rhyme which would be included in a presentation for parents or at a storytime for children from birth to age five.
  3. For credit, a short (approximately7 pages, double spaced) research paper will be required which incorporates research from at least 3 recent scholarly sources (chapters, articles or websites) and demonstrates how research can inform library programming for parents or their children from birth to five. The paper should therefore cover the research, how it can be applied in programming and examples from children’s culture - books, rhymes, songs, stories. Topics may range from research discussed in class to those agreed upon in advance with the instructor. Paper due: July 3rd via email to


Reading Diary / Class Participation: 25%

Paper: 75%

Inclusive Language and Equity

The Faculty of Education is committed to providing an environment of equality and respect for all people within the university community, and to educating faculty, staff, and students in developing teaching and learning contexts that are welcoming to all. The Faculty recommends that students and staff use inclusive language to create a classroom atmosphere in which students’ experiences and views are treated with equal respect and value in relation to their gender, racial background, sexual orientation, and ethnic background. Students who require accommodations in this course due to a disability affecting mobility, vision, hearing, learning, or mental or physical health are advised to discuss their needs with Specialized Support and Disability Services.

Academic Integrity

The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.