The ability to understand written and spoken language is essential in today’s society.
In the playroom of my childcare home I allow the children of all ages to choose and handle books independently throughout the day. I include a variety of books from small board books to heavy catalogues with glossy pages. Books are used as part of play and social activities.
I do not schedule a specific time of the day for me to read stories aloud to the children – reading and listening can be done anytime throughout the day regardless of age or ability.
Children are not required to sit and listen to me read a story. I encourage them to interact with each other and the objects in the room as I read. Being able to connect the story to personal experience is an important part of understanding the language. Even those children who are playing elsewhere in the room may be listening and visualizing or acting out parts of the story. I believe that children’s literacy skills can be enhanced by allowing them to move around and engage in other activities as I read. An active young child who is required to sit and ‘pay attention’ may be learning that books and reading are boring and actually tune out the words even though they appear to be listening.
I have attached labels to various objects throughout the room and in the housekeeping area I include empty containers from familiar objects in place of toy replicas. In this way, young children can learn to associate the text with the real objects instead of only seeing it on the pages of books. The printed labels and words on the items the children play with allow the children to combine the text, the spoken words and the visible object as they manipulate these items.
Literacy is more than being able to read and write words — understanding the meaning of words is equally important. Young children need to be able to physically explore in order to fully comprehend written and spoken language.