Yes, I did say early literacy activities for toddlers! But toddlers cant read, you may be saying to yourself right now. However,we are wanting to prepare them with the tools for future reading and writing, through positive, and enjoyable exposure to the world of print, and language rich environments.
I would like to look at how we can improve on our own strategies, for introducing early literacy activities to preschoolers while they are open to new ideas and concepts.
Storytelling: revisiting the story basket concept
In an earlier post I introduced the idea of story baskets and the success that I have had with them. I thought I would bring this back into the article as it has relevance with the current topic.
To be honest most of my articles or posts connect or cross over as they are all built around experiences and ideas for supporting young children’s learning and development in the very early years.
The idea behind the story baskets was to help children to connect more with the reader, to capture their attention and to meet the needs of different learning styles. It is also lots of fun!
You can take literally any story, nursery rhyme, song or legend and create a basket full of things relating to it.
By using the props alongside these favourites for children, it assists in capturing their attention and retaining it long enough for them to become involved.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, some wonderful outcomes from children being exposed to these type of early literacy experiences, were observed. Especially when they were left to explore the baskets on their own or in small groups.
They began retelling the stories in their own, and very imaginative ways that often led to totally new and unique stories.
This brings me to to where children take over and become involved in extending their own learning experiences.
Early literacy within the environment
If you are at home with your children or an educator in an early childhood setting, you will notice within your surrounding environment there is constant exposure to the world of print.
We are living in a digital age where children are using devices from a very young age and see the written word constantly here alone.
Every product we purchase has a label, from clothing to food, and not just print but symbols, logos, numbers. A child’s world is saturated with words symbols and numbers.
Outside the home are street signs, bus stops, billboards, popular restaurant branding and signage on every building identifying their brand or service.
Children are recognising these and I am sure when you’re out on a drive can already spot their favourite fast food place a mile away.
I am by no means suggesting that we need to teach our very young children to read, just to expand on their experiences through play.
When a young child is role playing, dressing up and pretending to be a grown up, what kind of things do you notice? Going shopping, making lists, cooking and pretending to follow recipes from books and magazines.
Going to the doctor. writing prescriptions and taking notes, using keyboards. They play at being police officers and handing out tickets, taking on the role of a shop keeper and pretending to use money.
The tools are already there, and they are being used to share messages and demonstrate their understanding of how they work.
This is where we can add the props to extend on the play, help create a waiting room at the doctors and add some clipboards with paper and pencils. Find some books about the human body or old x-rays.
Do some real cooking, and have the child draw pictures of the ingredients to create their own visual recipe book.
Children use role play not just as a form of entertainment but to try to make sense of the world around them. They are already imitating the things they know and understand and literacy has a huge part to play at this early stage of a child’s life .
A bi-cultural and multicultural perspective of early literacy
If you are reading this post and are not familiar with the New Zealand culture, we follow a bicultural early childhood curriculum. Because of this we aim to provide 50/50 exposure to two of our recognised languages, Maori and English.
Brain development: Studies have shown that children exposed to a second language over time have greater cognitive abilities and reasoning. They also demonstrate increased attention, focus and memory.
There are many positives to being bilingual and I am only touching on this briefly in this article.
Identity: Children feel a great sense of belonging when they are able to connect through storytelling to their own cultural backgrounds.
By providing children with a variety of books, props, music and art activities where they can express themselves and tell their story, we are promoting that sense of belonging for them.
I recently put together a story basket for the children in my centre as we were learning about local place names and how they came about. The history of a local legend, The Battle of Kupe and Te Wheke. (octopus).
I like to choose a variety of children’s literature for them to choose from. Among them are local well known Maori legend and as most of these have traditionally been shared orally it can be difficult sometimes to find them.
I have discovered a few places where many more are now accessible and affordable. Some of my absolute favourites (and the children’s,) are by an author by the name of Peter Gossage.
They are great for preschoolers as they are beautifully illustrated with bold text.There are many more out there and if you live elsewhere in the world you will be able to tailor your own literacy experiences around your culture.
Using literacy for research
Extending on the literacy experiences for young children by:
Creating baskets that can be used for science and nature. Discovery baskets containing books and literature for the purpose of research and identifying their findings.
The use of devices and other technology can also be added to research together as children ask questions.
They begin to view themselves a explorers and discoverers through inquiry and research. Through this they are beginning to to build on their existing knowledge, skills and vocabulary. As adults you might be surprised at what you are able to learn alongside children through these ventures.
Next time you think of literacy, it will not be just in the form of a book, but in everything around us. Providing new activities to expose children to new ideas should be a breeze now.
There are many advantages for children exposed to literature at a young age. Language and brain development. Imagination and creativity, and self expression among them. enjoy putting together some baskets, collating stories and looking at enhancing your environments.
Share your local history in story forms and add some local legends in there too. It could be fun to put together a discovery basket, what would you include in yours?
You are only limited by your own imagination, so when you begin to look around and see the potential for further literacy experiences for children, be creative! The sky is the limit!
Please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question or share your ideas.