Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Early Learning—Literacy Area

Last week, I started talking about developmentally-appropriate environments in early childhood programs.  Now we’ll start getting into specifics; some activities/materials that can be included in each learning area and what the children will learn from them.  Before I do that, though, I do need to clear up one issue.  I received an email from a family child care provider who reminded me that family child care should always look like a home rather than a center.  I couldn’t agree more (and, thanks, Irene for reminding me that I should include this).  However, I do think these articles can be useful to family child care providers also as they examine their programs and think about their curriculum.  We need to all, centers or family day cares, make sure that our programs and facilities are set up in ways to provide developmentally-appropriate learning activities and that we understand developmentally-appropriate education well enough to be able to explain it to the parents of the children in our care.

The first area is the Literacy area.  (Yes, I’m choosing this area first, in part, because I’m also a reading specialist.)  Literacy is a pretty easy sell to parents as learning to read is frequently one of parents’ top priorities for their children.  The problem, though, is that they are often focused on “when will my child learn to read”, without understanding the skills that have to be acquired before a child can read.

In setting up your Literacy area, the first consideration is where it’s located.  It should be in the quietest section of the room so that children can enjoy books without a lot of distractions.  Also, keep it as far away from the messy areas like Art and Sensory Play to protect your books.  If it can be placed near a window, natural light is nice.  A floor or table lamp is also a nice touch.

Your Literacy area should be comfortable; a place where children can relax.  If the area is not carpeted, a small rug will do the trick.  You will need chairs, bean bags, a small sofa, or some other comfortable place for children to sit.  A small table is also helpful for writing activities, keeping in mind that Literacy involves writing as well as reading.

Some things to include in your Literacy area are:
  • Books!! 
    • A wide variety of books, along with magazines and even newspapers. 
    • Reading materials should be at a variety of reading levels so that there is appropriate reading material for each student. 
    • New reading materials should be added periodically to keep the children’s interest and to correspond with your other learning objectives (theme of the week, etc.)
  • Low shelves so that children can easily reach the books.
  • Recordings with accompanying books.  (with headphones)
  • Puppets, flannel board stories, or other literacy props.
  • Literacy games—match objects to the objects that begin with the same sound or with the letter with which they start; rhyming; matching capital letters with lower-case letters; sight words
  • Different types of paper (for drawing and writing); pencils, crayons, and markers

As children explore the Literacy area, we can help parents understand that their children are learning:
  • vocabulary
  • books are read from front to back and pages are read from top to bottom, left to right
  • some words sound the same at the beginning and others at the end
  • sounds are represented by letters and letters form words
  • children can use letters to express their thoughts
  • reading is an enjoyable activity

Next week, we’ll talk about a Block area.

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