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Once Upon a Time: UNC Research Finds Children Need to Share Their Story

Research from UNC finds that African-American children have more success in early literacy classes when they're encouraged to share oral narratives in the classroom. Photo credit: Joni Miltenburg/Morguefile.
Research from UNC finds that African-American children have more success in early literacy classes when they're encouraged to share oral narratives in the classroom. Photo credit: Joni Miltenburg/Morguefile.
August 13, 2015

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – According to new research from the University of North Carolina's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, teachers should do more listening and less talking, particularly when it comes to encouraging literacy in African-American students.

The study looked at more than 6,000 students nationwide. Study co-author Iheoma Iruka, director of research and evaluation at the Buffet Early Childhood Institute, says preschool oral narrative skills were a significant predictor of literacy in African-American kindergartners.

"There's something about the oral language and narrative skills of children," she says. "Being allowed to share stories and converse and story-tell is an important asset to consider for black children in particular."

Iruka and lead author Nicole Gardner-Neblett reviewed their findings and other previous research to determine that oral storytelling is a large part of many African-American families, and has a considerable influence on how those children learn and participate in the classroom.

Iruka says encouraging more storytelling from all children, regardless of race, will benefit students in the form of increased confidence and a stronger bond between teacher and student.

"Children need to be able to not just understand what's happening, but able to express themselves and articulate what they're feeling and seeing," says Iruka. "How they're learning, and discussing what they're learning in class."

The study is the first to demonstrate the connection between African-American preschoolers' storytelling abilities, and the development of their early reading skills.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC