Theoretical Frameworks to Explain Literacy Acquisition
Literacy researchers have adopted constructivist and social constructivist theoretical frameworks to explain literacy acquisition, growth, and development. These perspectives are informed by the work of theorists that believe all learning is an active, interpersonal, and social process. For example, Vygotsky's (1987) theoretical framework has been instrumental in illustrating the role of culture in literacy learning. In addition, Bruner's (1983) notion of scaffolding provides an understanding of the support that children receive from adults as they learn language, become meaning makers, and learn to communicate.
Adherents of the social constructivist approach argue that people's learning is influenced by the society in which they live (Bakhtin, 1986; Wertsch, 1993). Children learn literacy in the same way they learn language--from interacting and communicating with the people around them (Holdaway, 1979). They unconsciously develop ways of knowing, understanding, and communicating within the family, extended family, communities, and society. Hutchins (1980) writes, "Once learned, it becomes what one sees with, but seldom what one sees" (p. 12). Thus, cultural understanding and learning form the knowledge base that is drawn upon to make sense of and interpret life. However, culture is not static; it is fluid, ever changing, and adaptable (Bruner, 1986; Rosaldo, 1989). Emphasizing the role of culture, Bruner (1990) writes, "It is culture, not biology, that shapes human life and the human mind" (p. 34).