Read, Play, and Learn!® capitalizes on children’s natural preferred activity – play – to promote and enhance the acquisition of pre-literacy skills.

Using play activities related to storybooks gives teachers a natural mode for creating a literacy-rich environment. As soon as children enter the classroom, they see that stories and books are the center of their world. Through the highly stimulating venue of play, they learn that these stories and books are something they can interpret and enjoy.

A Literacy-Rich Environment

As research shows, a literacy-rich environment in the preschool years is essential to building children’s appreciation for and interest in literature, as well as to providing a foundation for phonemic awareness, the skill identified as one of the first steps in learning to read. A literacy-rich environment, according to the IRA and NAEYC’s joint position statement (1998), includes multiple forms of print materials, storybooks and literacy props (paper, markers, calendars, signs, menus, etc.), daily reading aloud, opportunities to talk about what has been read, and adult facilitation of literacy play (rhymes, songs, alliteration, making signs, etc.) and skill development.

Read, Play, and Learn!® provides just this kind of environment. All activities center around storybooks, and children are immersed daily in reading and print materials. Literacy props appear in all classroom centers and are part of nearly every module activity. Activities encourage teachers to discuss the letters of story-words, such as the name “Abiyoyo” or the airport signs in “First Flight.” Teachers have routine opportunities to incorporate print into activities. “The Knight and the Dragon,” for example, requires menus. The children can create road signs, with teacher guidance, for “A Porcupine Named Fluffy.”

In addition to reading, retelling, and dramatizing the official module story, children are given ample time to browse and examine other storybooks in the Literacy Center. The Teacher’s Guide includes many suggestions for materials that teachers can bring to their classrooms to enhance literacy development of children at all developmental levels.

Print-Based Activities

Literacy development and play both involve creating, communicating, representing a child’s thoughts and actions, and representing words. Read, Play, and Learn!® unites these concepts. By using stories and print materials to enrich and enliven children’s play, Read, Play, and Learn!® helps children learn to enjoy the printed word and develop a desire to read.

The play-based activities that accompany each story module also enhance children’s comprehension of plot, characters, as well as words that they see on the page and in their projects. Many activities involve the representation of words and events with words and pictures. While enjoying themselves, children are also learning and coming to appreciate what books have to offer.

Meeting Children’s Natural Interests

Two natural interests of young children are:

  1. To learn about their world and communicate that knowledge to others.
  2. To increase the number of ways that their knowledge can be acquired and shared. Sharing and acquiring knowledge involves various forms of expression, including gestures, actions, dramatizations, pictures, as well as words.

By tapping into these natural forms of learning and expression, Read, Play, and Learn!® fosters emerging literacy development by providing children with numerous modalities with which to express themselves and represent what they have learned. Activities encourage children to express themselves and their thoughts with pictures, letters, symbols, and signs. As children gain practice communicating with words, pictures, and symbolic actions, they develop the skills they’ll need to communicate through another symbolic system that represents words and ideas – the phonemic code and its accompanying written symbols.

Building Phonemic Awareness

One of the most useful aspects of Read, Play, and Learn!® is that teachers help students develop phonemic awareness within activities they find enjoyable and look forward to each day. As the Early Childhood and Literacy Development Committee of the International Reading Association emphasized (1986 and 1990), it is important for young children to develop skills within natural environments. Play and storybooks are indeed a natural environment for young children. And since the stories in Read, Play, and Learn!® involve predictable patterns of words or sounds that can be written on paper or charts for the children to see, as well as repetition and interactive play activities, children can begin to develop phonemic awareness naturally and enjoyably.

Every Read, Play, and Learn!® story module includes numerous activities that enable children to experience rhyme, rhythm, and sounds, thereby enhancing children’s understanding of the sound patterns that make up the English language. Sound games, too, are incorporated into the curriculum across many contexts and many times during each day: storytime, the sensory area, dramatic play, the Literacy Center, and motor activities involving dancing and fingerplays. Each module includes specific suggestions for songs and activities. Within the context of play, children learn to differentiate speech sounds and begin to associate those sounds with letters, and eventually words. Words can then be associated to the meaning of whole ideas and events.

In “A Porcupine Named Fluffy,” oral motor activities involve the children making “soft” and “hard” sounds and then determining which animals make each type of sound.

Throughout these activities, children are encouraged to listen and differentiate sounds, make rhymes, follow rhythms, and sequence sound patterns. Read, Play, and Learn!® allows teachers to incorporate sound play and phonemic activities across all module activities. Such a setup also allows teachers to make modifications for children at varying ability levels.

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