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Course Information

Instructor Info:Melissa Burch
Office Extension x5465
TA Info:Katie Myers-Cooper
Alicia Ludin
Georgia Gerike
Term: 2013S
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 222
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 222

The majority of adults are able to read fluently. However, when children learn to read, the process is dependent on a number of skills and requires a great deal of adult guidance. In this course we will discuss the cultural importance of literacy across societies and throughout childhood. We will focus on the development of the complex skill of reading, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and higher-order processes that contribute to decoding and text comprehension. Because instruction can play a determining factor in children's acquisition of literacy skills, we will study early reading materials and examine strategies that are employed in the classroom to facilitate the acquisition of these skills. Evaluation will be based on class participation, a series of short papers, and a longer final project.

Course Objectives:

The objective of this course is to provide an understanding of the process of literacy development, the functions of literacy, and social context in which these skills emerge. We will examine how parents and teachers structure the environment to assist in the development of literacy. We will consider challenges in learning to read, including dyslexia. We will explore predictors of literacy, and the factors that mediate demographic differences in reading skill. Reading theoretical papers as well as original studies in psychology and education will inform these issues.


In addition, we will be partnering with the William H. Peck Community School in Holyoke. They have recently started a family engagement program, the Home School Bridges Project. We will work with them to develop materials and activities for families and teachers that will allow us to apply the information from our readings to practice. 

Evaluation Criteria:

To receive an evaluation in this course, students are required to:

1) Attend and participate in class regularly. If a student has more than 4 unexcused absences, s/he will not receive an evaluation.

2) Complete readings and prepare for class discussion.

3) Complete all written assignments in a timely manner. Writing assignments will include a reflection on early experiences with and values of literacy, a summary of a research article, a series of response papers, three integration papers to student poster presentations, and an outreach project (including a draft) in which the topics of the class be applied to suggestions for practice.

4) Participate in one of three poster sessions on assigned themes of the course.


Written work is due in class. It is essential to active participation in the course and so that we can provide timely feedback. However, if a medical or personal emergency arises, please contact me as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements. We will not evaluate late work, but all assignments must be completed and included in the final portfolio in order to receive an evaluation.

Additional Info:


An “incomplete” will be granted at the discretion of the instructor and  only under the most unusual and incapacitating circumstances.  If you miss more than two classes, or feel that you are in danger of not completing the course for any reason, please come see me as soon as possible.  Any student seeking an incomplete must (1) request the “incomplete” in writing prior to the last week of class, (2) provide appropriate written documentation of the illness or circumstances, and (3) make specific arrangements with the instructor to complete the required coursework.  A timeline for completion of any missing work will be negotiated. Students will have no more than one semester to complete any missed assignments to replace the incomplete with an evaluation.  Failure to complete the required work within the negotiated timeframe will result in a “no evaluation.”


Special Needs:

I encourage students with disabilities or special needs to discuss with me whatever arrangements may be needed to facilitate their work in the course.  Students with special needs should contact me during the first week of class to discuss any special arrangements.  Proper documentation must be in place with CASA. 


Students are expected to follow the Ethics of Scholarship ( described in Non Satis Non Scire. )