Home literacy activities: Accounting for differences in early grade literacy outcomes in low-income families in Zambia

Tamara Chansa-Kabali


Inequalities on child cognitive outcomes exist as children enter the first grade. These differences are even wider for children in low-income families. This article aims to examine the extent to which home factors account for variation in early literacy outcomes in the first year of schooling. A total of 72 first graders and their parents from low-income families in Lusaka, Zambia, participated in the study. A self-reported home literacy questionnaire was used to collect home literacy data − parental education, home possessions, reading materials, language awareness, print experience, writing activities, reading activities and teaching letters. Children’s early literacy skills were assessed using four measures: orthography awareness, spelling, vocabulary and math tests. These tests were measured at two points: at the beginning and at the end of the first grade. Results showed that teaching letters was most predictive of literacy outcomes both at the beginning and end of the first year. The study concludes that formal teaching of letters at home is the parents’ greatest strength for supporting literacy in low-income families. Thus, energies for parental involvement should be directed in ways that are culturally practised and manageable by parents for better literacy outcomes.


early literacy skills; home literacy environment; low income families; Zambia

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v7i1.523

Submitted: 06 February 2017
Published: 16 November 2017

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Copyright (c) 2017 Tamara Chansa-Kabali

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South African Journal of Childhood Education    |    ISSN: 2223-7674 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2223-7682 (ONLINE)