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The Importance of a Literacy Development Framework

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As the "science of reading" movement continues to grow, it's important for early childhood teachers to have access to resources with evidence-based methods so young children can be ready to learn. Latisha Hayes, PhD, author of Playful Activities for Reading Readiness: Laying a Foundation for Literacy addresses this need by providing pre-K and kindergarten teachers with tested, hands-on activities and a framework for building a firm literacy foundation. In this video, Latisha explains why both language comprehension and word structure are essential components of a reading development framework, and how to teach these through engaging activities. 

Hi, my name is Tisha Hayes, and today I want to share a bit about a book, Playful Activities for Reading Readiness: Laying a Foundation for Literacy. In reading, we often refer to a framework of how young children emerge and progress as readers called “The Simple View of Reading.” The name is deceptive because reading development is far from simple. But what the simple view does is frame reading development as evolving within two broad components. One, language comprehension–or the ways in which we process and think about orally presented information. Two, the structure of words–or how words sound and how they are formed in written language.

Together, these two components help us think about how children learn to read and understand words, or how to lay the foundation for literacy. How would this look in an early childhood classroom? Well first, we won't preference one component of the “Simple View” over the other. It is truly a marriage of both. And second, we will leverage the allure of books, children's natural curiosity, and the power of purposeful play. 

So we might embark on a study of animals and read books like Khoa Le’s The Lonely Polar Bear. Then we might build listening skills using the popular poem “Polar Bear, Polar Bear”  that starts like this:

Polar bear, polar bear 

Reach up high 

Polar bear, polar bear

Touch the sky

Then we might extend our learning about animals and read Kate Messner's Over and Under the Snow. This time, instead of “Polar Bear, Polar Bear,” children move their bodies and have fun as they listen to:

Snowy owl, snowy owl

Bend down low

Snowy owl, snowy owl 

Touch your toe

We'll encourage children to talk and think about animals as we note adaptations arctic animals have made to help them survive in icy-cold places, like polar bears. And as children learn more about animals, their categories become more defined and new categories emerge, like big cats with lynxes from the Arctic and jaguars from the jungle. 

We'll also have children think about the sounds they hear in words. We might take up another of Kate Messner's books called Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt and have children dig for sounds. To do this, we'd put objects in a container of rice and have children dig and pull out an object for us to think about as we isolate a beginning sound. We might focus on one target sound with objects like mouse and man, or we might include objects that don't begin with our target sound like gum and bag.

And as children pull out objects, they would sort them into categories of those that begin with /m/ like mouse and those that don’t. Then we’d connect to letters and perhaps play a game like Consonant Swap. Here, we'd provide an easy ending like /at/, and we would swap the beginning consonant to make words. So for example, we would show the letter M so we could join /m/ and /at/ to make mat. Then swap the /m/ with /s/ to make sat.

Check out the book Playful Activities for Reading Readiness to learn about play-based activities that lay a foundation for literacy. After all, learning can and should be fun!