Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Rosalind Charlesworth


The purpose of this ethnographic research was to study kindergarten students' literacy skills and stress-related behaviors and a teacher's instructional behavior before and after demonstrations in appropriate bookreading strategies. A lower socio-economic setting, which previously had been identified by Burts, Hart, Charlesworth, and Kirk (1990a) as a developmentally inappropriate instructional environment, was selected for observation as one which might be amenable to change. The demonstrations included bookreading strategies that the kindergarten teacher could implement to promote the acquisition of literacy in ways that do not contribute to stress. Ethnographic data collection consisted of three months of participant observation in one kindergarten classroom. The observation was conducted before, during, and after demonstrations in appropriate bookreading strategies. These strategies included interacting with children about the meaning of print as opposed to drilling on isolated skills. The foundation of this ethnography was the descriptive field notes gained from long-term fieldwork. Analysis of the field notes was inductive in that the recurring patterns emerged out of the data rather than being imposed on the data prior to data collection and analysis. Using a coding procedure, three judges represented their observations of behavior. Additionally, interviews and researcher-designed instruments were used to triangulate the data collected in the form of field notes. The study was conducted in a school located in a metropolitan area of approximately 450,000 people. The kindergarten population in this study consisted of a Black female teacher, age 55, and twelve Black children, six boys and six girls ranging in age from 4.10 to 6.2 years. The findings of this study are threefold: First, by providing a descriptive account of classroom behavior in the context of literacy acquisition, this study offers an in-depth portrayal of how children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, where stressors exist both in and outside the home, acquire literacy skills. Second, it suggests that children from such backgrounds progress rapidly in acquiring literacy skills when taught in developmentally appropriate ways and that teachers adopt appropriate bookreading strategies when involved in the planning. Third, the study indicates that a decrease in the frequency of children's classroom stress behaviors may occur during bookreading.