Read, Play, and Learn!® supports children’s development in the 4 key domains: cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and sensorimotor. Activities and curriculum objectives are designed to enhance children’s skills and encourage skill development in each domain through exploration, interaction, and self-expression. First and foremost, Read, Play, and Learn!® recognizes that each child is an individual and provides teachers with adaptations and modifications for each recommended activity within each developmental level. No matter their particular developmental level and individual needs, children are constantly being encouraged and challenged to build on previous skills and gain new ones.

Cognitive Development

Read, Play, and Learn!® activities are designed to promote children’s problem-solving, sequential thinking, classification, and representation skills through activities geared to each child’s developmental level, be it sensorimotor, functional, or symbolic. (Learn more about identifying children's levels.)

Children at the sensorimotor level of cognitive development are given many opportunities to manipulate and investigate objects. Activities are geared to getting the child to enhance fine motor skills (grasping, pulling) and to combine objects (putting an object “in” another). Children at this level are encouraged to expand their sound production or vocabulary.

Children at the functional level of development are ready to engage in higher-level manipulation, so activities are geared to encourage representational thinking. Children create objects in the Table Play or Art areas. They stack blocks to build structures, such as the town wall in “Abiyoyo.” They are given the opportunity to match toy animals from “Night Tree” to their pictures and even count the animals, in order to enhance their discrimination and classification skills.

Children at the symbolic level are provided opportunities to explore, compare, and question. They measure objects, record their findings, and share their knowledge with peers in the Science and Math Center, represent story characters and their feelings in the Art Area, and write or dictate stories about their artwork in the literacy center.

The storybook modules offer guidelines and suggested modifications to activities in each center to accommodate children at each of the three levels of development. For example, in the Science and Math Center during “A Porcupine Named Fluffy,” children at the sensorimotor level can begin to understand the concept of fluffiness by exploring differently textured objects (Velcro, flannel, bubble wrap) while children at the functional level can observe and experiment with how objects stick together, observe changes in the “potato porcupines,” and match colors or shapes. Children at the symbolic level can compare and contrast objects, think about cause and effect (air making cream fluffy), and identify similar colors and shapes.

Communication and Language

Read, Play, and Learn!® strives to build children’s expressive and receptive communication skills through interaction, reading, and creative expression. The variety and flexibility of the module activities enables children at all three developmental levels to enhance their skills.

While many children at the sensorimotor level may not yet be using words or signs to communicate, teachers using Read, Play, and Learn!® can help children acquire these skills by presenting concepts at a basic level. For example, in “Abiyoyo,” teachers can demonstrate the word for music by using either sounds or signs when the story reaches the part where the father plays his ukulele. This word/sign/sound can be reinforced when the children sing songs or are listening to music.

Children at the functional level are challenged by sequences of pictures that help them follow a set of verbal instructions/explanations. Teachers use the activities to encourage these children to begin to put multiple words together in sentences by discussing materials clothing props, or cooking activities.

Children at the symbolic level benefit from Read, Play, and Learn!’s® emphasis on story retelling and dramatization. Imaginative play requires them to use language and communicate with peers using complex language structures. The vocabulary, themes, and problem-solving activities presented with each story allow children at this level to expand their communicative abilities in a variety of ways.

For all children, the games, activities, and sound play in the curriculum help develop awareness of sounds and oral-motor skills. Not only does this enhance their ability to communicate with peers and adults, but it provides a foundation for phonemic awareness.


Because the vast majority of Read, Play, and Learn!® activities are arranged to encourage social interaction between children, the curriculum builds all children’s social-emotional skills as they relate with both their peers and teachers.

Whether they are dramatizing the story, working on art project, exploring different textures, or reading, children are constantly interacting and sharing knowledge with peers. Many of the stories, including “A Porcupine Named Fluffy” and “Friends,” focus on friendships and relationships between people, enabling teachers to lead discussions about those issues.

In “A Porcupine Named Fluffy,” children explore the meaning and emotions of friendship not only by listening to the story, but also through participating in the unit’s activities. Children roll in a barrel together in the Motor Area, simulating the story characters’ actions, role-play the story in the Dramatic Play Area, work together to paint a mural build a miniature scene from the story, and play the Fluffy and Hippo board game.

Of course, snack (preceded by group preparation), music, and outdoor play provide additional opportunities for interaction and development of social-emotional skills. The Teacher’s Guide shows teachers how to use these activities as opportunities to encourage children to assist each other and converse about what they are doing.


In Read, Play, and Learn!®, story activities help all children, regardless of their developmental level, enhance their sensorimotor skills by providing opportunities for sensory and motor play. Activities such as pounding on blocks as a wall is built (“Abiyoyo”), stomping across a bridge (“The Three Billy Goats Gruff”), and bouncing on pillows (“A Porcupine Named Fluffy”) help children improve their muscle tone. Children often have the chance to crawl, play while lying on their stomachs, skip, hop, and roll. They gain experience and confidence from understanding how to make their bodies move into certain positions.

Gross and fine motor skills are developed through outdoor and indoor motor activities, along with dramatic play, art projects, and sensory activities. For example, the use of finger and thumb together is encouraged by the use of small sponges for painting fish (“The Rainbow Fish”) and small stick-on stars (“Night Tree”). The Teacher’s Guide also provides teachers with suggested modifications for children with sensory impairments.

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