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There is increasing recognition that literacy learning is a sociocultural phenomenon and that the ways in which the learning is mediated, the meanings which are ascribed to literacy, and the literacy activities in which members of a cultural group engage are determined by the beliefs and values held by the participants (Clay, 1993). For example, in her work with three different cultural groups in the southeastern United States, Heath (1983) documented qualitative differences between the early literacy experiences of working class children and their middle class counterparts. Tracking the children's literacy development in school, she found that the middle class children whose early literacy experiences approximated the experiences which they subsequently encountered in school were successful; working class children whose preschool literacy experiences were not congruent with those at school experienced difficulty and failure and consequently dropped out of school.

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