Elementary Teachers' Perceptions about the Causes of Literacy Gaps among Elementary Students.
Background: In the 21st century, literacy means the ability to use reading skills to gain access to the world of knowledge, synthesize information from different sources, evaluate arguments, and gain new knowledge. Teachers encounter new students each year with hopes of teaching their students to become effective readers without knowing the educational backgrounds their students bring into classroom settings. Reading is an acquired skill that is crucial for successful educational attainment, and students need these skills to succeed academically. Purpose: This study aimed to acquire elementary teachers' perceptions of the causes of literacy gaps students experience in elementary grades. This study intended to provide all-level administrators, teachers, and parents with an insight into the daily instructional experiences of teachers while teaching elementary students to acquire literacy skills. The research question for this study was: What are elementary teachers' perceptions regarding the root causes of literacy gaps among elementary students? Method: This study used a qualitative narrative inquiry method to acquire stories of lived educational experiences from elementary teachers regarding students who have developed gaps while learning to read. Using convenience sampling, five participants were selected, along with the researcher/participant, to identify teachers who teach students experiencing reading gaps in their elementary grade placements. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted via the TEAMS platform, followed by individual member-checking interviews to ensure the accuracy and validity of the transcriptions. In addition, the researcher's field journal was used to provide reflections captured during the interviews. A narrative analysis was used to code data and to determine themes. A professional expert checked data points and analysis. Findings: As the data from the five interviews were coded and analyzed, the researcher was able to collect thoughts and information from the five participants and thoughts from the researcher/ participant about their perceptions of the root causes of literacy gaps among elementary students. The participants displayed a strong understanding of why literacy gaps occurred in some students in elementary settings. After conducting semi-structured individual interviews with each participant on the root causes of literacy gaps and the journal notes from the researcher/participant, a total of nine themes emerged: 1) Foundation Skills, 2) Decoding Skills, 3) Socioeconomic Status, 4) Parental Involvement, 5) Phonemic Awareness, 6) Data and Diagnostic Tests, 7) Time, 8) Resources, and 9) The Educational Worlds is in Danger. Some of the themes are not controlled by the teachers; therefore, the focus is on what they can do. Conclusion: Teachers' perceptions about the causes of literacy gaps among elementary students in this narrative inquiry revealed that students need to display mastery of phonological and phonemic awareness to be successful readers. Furthermore, the participants indicated the need for elementary teachers to construct and implement a plan that incorporates effective instruction that will assist elementary students in developing proficient foundational literacy skills.