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How to Effectively Develop Funds of Knowledge Using a Whole Child Literacy Approach

By Dr. Terrie Noland March 28, 2022 by Learning Ally – USED WITH PERMISSION

Making the Mind-shift to Whole Child Literacy

The Whole Child Literacy approach is an innovative mind-shift that embraces a philosophy of understanding the components of literacy and language, while providing the time, social and emotional support, and assets to word decoding development. This combination of instructional strategies and support during explicit teaching and implicit learning during a child’s formative years is critical. Simultaneously, students will perform better when we boost self-efficacy, belief building, executive functioning and reasoning, and social-emotional capacities.

Educating the “Whole Child”

When we refer to ‘educating the whole child,’ we are asking education systems to ensure that each child is an active maker and shaper of the world they inherit. Moving too swiftly from wordplay, poems, rhymes, and picture books from birth to five to decodables in kindergarten, can leave too many critical literacy components behind. Using literature in a whole-child approach wraps the student in words that develop their ‘funds of knowledge’ and increases their capacity to bend words to their will which opens pathways of curiosity, creativity, and neural pathways. This approach assumes cognitive and environmental variables that have historically been left out of the conversation when addressing how to equip children with the word knowledge they need to achieve levels of proficiency in reading.

Connect Students to “Their” World

The right book can help a child recognize that they are part of, and inextricably connected to, the rest of the world. Dr. Noland emphasizes using literature to serve as “windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors.” (Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990) This ensures children see themselves and others in literature.

A colleague of Dr. Noland’s experienced significant trauma with the loss of her mother at a young age. She recalls that her peers, teachers and friends couldn’t relate to her because they had never lost a parent. She found comfort in the pages of a book when no one else could grasp her experience. Dr. Evan Ortlieb states that there is a book for every child. As Literacy Leaders, we must work hard to discover that book that will build students up with schema and the funds of knowledge necessary to understand their world and the world around them.

Be a Literacy Leader

Learning Ally is a national nonprofit shining a spotlight on literacy. Our approach to literacy skills development is through a holistic lens focused on the learner as well as the educator, and the system of support surrounding the learning process. To explore more strategies using “Whole Child Literacy,” sign up for our Spotlight on Dyslexia on June 9-10, 2022 and read our blog with literacy thought leaders.

Dr. Terrie Noland, Learning Ally’s V.P. of Educator Initiatives, and author of the podcast series on Spotify, “Literacy Leadership,” is a Certified Academic Language Practitioner. In this blog, Dr. Noland emphasizes placing the student’s needs at the center of learning by building environments that address their individual needs, learning strengths, and intellectual capacity.


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