Children Acquiring Literacy Naturally

6 h
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  • 3 Sequences
  • Introductive Level

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Lecture 1:  The course begins with the guiding proposal that universalliteracy can be achieved with minimal cost. It questions the commonly held belief that written language requiresformal instruction and schooling whereas spoken language is seamlessly acquiredfrom birth onward by natural interactions with persons who talk. This proposalis followed by an overview of the scientific process because the research andtheory discussed in the class will consist of alternative perspectives and thestudents will learn how different perspectives are developed and evaluated.This process will enhance their critical thinking skills.

Lecture 2: There have been two primary theoreticalframeworks to describe language and its acquisition. The nativist positionholds that language and its acquisition are uniquely dependent on a considerableamount of innate abilities, and unlike other perceptual and cognitivefunctions. The empiricist position holds that very little, if any, of languagedepends on innate abilities and its acquisition can be accounted for by typicalperceptual and cognitive processes. To evaluate these two theoreticalframeworks, we will learn about language structure, how it is used, and how itis acquired.

Lectures 3 and 4: To set the stage for assessing thepossibility of naturally acquired reading, we will explore speech perceptionand how it is acquired. Speech has also had two alternative theoreticalframeworks, and we will consider relevant research that addresses theirdifferences. The goal of this assessment is to better understand what isrequired for speech perception and its acquisition and how these requirementscompare to the natural acquisition of reading.

Lectures 5 and 6: These lectures will give an overview ofresearch and theory on reading and literacy. Given the possibility of naturallyacquired reading, we will review the nature of reading and how it is currentlytaught. One of the main goals is to destroy prevalent myths about how we read.This discussion will highlight the assumptions in current practice and how theycompare to the possibility of naturally acquired reading.

Lecture 7: As covered in the previous lectures, it iscommonly believed that spoken and signed languages are acquired from birthonward by natural interactions with persons who talk whereas learning to readrequires formal instruction and schooling. We consider the hypothesis that oncean appropriate form of written text is made available early in a child’s lifebefore formal schooling begins, reading will also be learned inductively,emerge naturally, and with no significant negative consequences. We willexamine the role of perception and action modalities in language acquisitionand use and compare spoken and signed languages to written languages.

Lecture 8: We will describe the demographics of literacy andilliteracy and their social and economic implications. The cost of illiteracyas well as the huge cost of formal literacy instruction is one of the majorfinancial burdens on societies.

Lecture 9: We will study the implications of naturallyacquired literacy for individuals who are spoken and/or written languagechallenged because of deafness or other impairments.

Lecture 10. We will review past technological developmentsto set the stage for peering into the future. We will discuss the various technologiesavailable or soon to be available that will allow growing children toexperience an augmented reality that will be capable of supplementing theirreal world experience with various forms of language generated automatically.




Dr. Dominic William Massaro
Research Professor


UC Santa Cruz is an outstanding public research university with a deep commitment to undergraduate education. It’s a place that connects people and programs in unexpected ways while providing unparalleled opportunities for students to learn through hands-on experience.


Coursera is a digital company offering massive open online course founded by computer teachers Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller Stanford University, located in Mountain View, California. 

Coursera works with top universities and organizations to make some of their courses available online, and offers courses in many subjects, including: physics, engineering, humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, computer science, digital marketing, data science, and other subjects.

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