The Foundation of Literacy

Dale D. Johnson; Bonnie Johnson

First Edition • July 1, 2012 • 256 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813344157 • $32.00 USD$62.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813391892 • $19.99 USD$22.99 CAN


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Written by respected authorities in the fields of education and literacy studies, Words: The Foundation of Literacy is a groundbreaking book for teachers, administrators, and education students. Dale and Bonnie Johnson present a fresh, inspiring reminder of why studying language—from word origins to word structure—is such a vital first step in the development of students’ vocabulary, literacy, writing skills, and overall ability to learn.

At a time when high-stakes testing has squeezed substance from many curricula, Johnson and Johnson provide ways to enhance students’ understanding, interest, and appreciation of language and all its subtleties. Words explores how meaning in language is created by the use and interrelationships of words, phrases, and sentences, their denotations, connotations, implications, and ambiguities. From birth, most children exhibit a natural interest in language—its sounds, nuances, and unpredictable qualities. It is important to sustain, stimulate, and recapture that natural interest in the classroom, and Words provides a multitude of creative and practical techniques for doing so.

Dale D. Johnson is past president of the International Reading Association and professor of literacy education at Dowling College New York. Prior to joining the Dowling faculty, he served as professor and dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisiana. His books include Vocabulary in the Elementary and Middle School and High Stakes: Poverty, Testing, and Failure in American Schools.

Bonnie Johnson is professor of human development and learning at Dowling College. Her books include Wordworks: Exploring Language Play and High Stakes: Poverty, Testing, and Failure in American Schools. Dr. Johnson has taught at all levels from preschool through graduate school and is the recipient of the University of Wisconsin’s Distinguished Teacher of Teachers Award.

Foreword by Michael L. Kamil
Preface by Jack Cassidy
Chapter 1: Our Language: Something Old, Something New
Chapter 2: Origins: Every Word and Expression Has a Story
Chapter 3: Word Formation
Chapter 4: Semantic Connections: How Words Are Organized in Our Minds
Chapter 5: Ambiguity in Language
Chapter 6: Figurative Language
Chapter 7: Proverbs: Short Sentences Drawn from Long Expressions
Chapter 8: Onomastics: The World of Names
Chapter 9: Word Play: Riddles and Rhymes
Chapter 10: A Mélange of Words in Language and Life

“A powerful, enjoyable, informative, and important reading experience… . I can, without reservation, recommend Words: The Foundation of Literacy to any reader and to all teachers. I congratulate the authors, Dale and Bonnie Johnson, on the creation of a work which, with widespread use, could improve listening, speaking, writing, and thinking in America.” —The Reading Professor

Dale Johnson and Bonnie Johnson offer this book to teachers of primary and secondary students as a resource for them to encourage their students to go beyond ‘studying for the test’ and for themselves to go beyond ‘teaching the test’ … They provide great enjoyment of words, striving to make learning both vocabulary and a bit of linguisitics fun. —Communication Research Trends

“Dale and Bonnie Johnson have written an interesting book… . Once I began reading it I read it all the way through. Tracing the history of English words and phrases along with providing sound advice for developing students’ vocabulary, this interesting book is a winner. From fibble-fable to loose cannon to geek, see how words entered the language and how many have vanished from daily use. Whether read at the beach or for a university class you won’t be able to put this book down.” —Richard Allington, University of Tennessee

“This book is an inventive, well-researched, and intriguing exploration into the complex nature of words. Drs. Dale and Bonnie Johnson offer teachers numerous informative and inspiring ways to engage their students in exploring and discovering words through playful anecdotes, engaging activities, and interesting facts. This book is full of surprises. It will spark the innate inquisitiveness of learners of all ages.” —Dr. Kathleen Schlichting, University of North Carolina Wilmington

“In Words: The Foundation of Literacy, noted educators and vocabulary researchers Dale and Bonnie Johnson provide teachers a wealth of novel, empirically based, and just plain fun activities and lessons for expanding students’ vocabulary knowledge and love of words and language. Words is an indispensible tool that ought to be on the bookshelf—no, make that in the hands—of every literacy teacher and teacher educator.” —James F. Baumann, Ph.D., Chancellor’s Chair for Excellence of Literacy Education, University of Missouri Columbia

“Dale and Bonnie Johnson provide a significant foundation for literacy through exploration of the world of words. I discovered, and so will teachers, how knowledge of the five systems within language better develop passion for using words in many contexts. Furthermore, the instructional activities strongly support the teaching and learning of vocabulary in meaningful, joyful ways. I believe students will engage in the play of words beyond classrooms.” —Charline Barnes Rowland, West Virginia University

“Dale and Bonnie Johnson have written a work that will make vocabulary instruction more effective by bringing it to life for teachers and students.” —from the foreword by Michael L. Kamil, Stanford University

“A wonderfully readable volume about our language… . Undoubtedly will [become] one of the premier resources for teachers at all levels.” —from the preface by Jack Cassidy, Texas A&M

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