Date of Award


Document Type

Research Paper

Superseded Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education (Special Education)

Colleges & School

Cardinal Stritch College

Degree Granted By

Cardinal Stritch College

First Advisor

Joanne A. Anderson

Library of Congress Subject Heading

Language experience approach in education; Reading--Language experience approach


There is growing concern and continuing debate in the United States, about the lack of literacy development and reading failure of America's school children. "Parents, teachers and researchers have begun to notice a neglect of the real basics in school-time engaged in actual reading and writing" (Reutzel & Hollingsworth, 1988, p. 406). "The United States, according to a recent study, ranks 49th in literacy among the 159 countries of the world" (Cutting & Milligan, 1990, p. 62). This failure has forced American educators to rethink their views of how children learn to read and write. During the past decade a new philosophy and belief system about early language and literacy development has sprung into being. It is called the whole language approach, and is based on the idea that reading is a process, and must be taught from the whole to its parts in a real and natural manner. This approach is in stark contrast to the word centered skills approach that continues to be taught in many American classrooms today. This paper examined the history and philosophy of the whole language approach in an effort to determine its appropriateness to what is known about the stages of children's early language and literacy development. The author looked at the ways a whole language environment is organized to promote literacy and language skills in very young children. The study addressed how reading instruction is begun with very young children based on what they already know, and how a teacher can facilitate the teaching of emerging reading and writing skills within the context of the whole language approach. Methods of charting progress and assessing growth in whole language were examined by the author as part of this paper. Evaluation in a whole language approach differs sharply from testing used in a skills based approach, which often centers on standardized testing.


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