Future Readers are Children Who Play

Recently, I was in an early head start site and I observed a toddler, dressed as a doctor, cooking at the play stove, while nursing a baby doll. The teacher asked if the child was a chef and the girl answered, she was a “cooker.” The teacher laughed and said, that’s right you are a doctor, mother, chef. While the girl played and acted out routines she saw when she was at home or with her family in the world, her teacher taught her new vocabulary to describe what was happening.

This is a sight you don’t often see in schools anymore. Why is that and how is it harming the future generations?

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The Challenge

Outcomes based learning has hurt play, particularly in early learning classrooms. Teachers are required to prove skills learned and objectives the children have met. Documentation has taken precedence over the process of learning, creating an environment where children regurgitate information without ever knowing how to process, internalize and comprehend what they have heard.

What happened?

Based from an article retrieved on EBSCOhost

Ready or Not, Play or Not: Next Steps for Sociodramatic Play and the Early Literacy Curriculum: A Theoretical perspective. Dr. Tarsha Bluiett. Reading Improvement, Fall 2018. Volume 55:3, 83-88.

No Child Left Behind, initiated by the Bush administration, while with good intentions, has created an atmosphere where children are continually left behind because teachers are forced to instruct and teach at levels the early learners aren’t ready for.

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Research Shows

Beginning with Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s research has repeatedly shown, that play is the work of learning. Meaningful work happens through an environment rich with opportunities for creative play,  that will not always inspire children to become lifelong learners, but also aids in the development of the oral, aural and visual skills a child needs in order to make the jump from pre-literacy to emergent reader and finally into independent reader.

Dramatic play encourages the development of language, emotional literacy, cooperation with peers, problem solving and moving from internal thought to externalization of thoughts and back to deeper thinking.

Play, not instruction, fosters this connection.

Social interactions through play provide meaningful ways for children to gain important life and self-care skills and emotional learning all while the imitate and reproduce the world they see around them in the safety of the classroom.

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What does this mean for parents of pre-literate children?

  • Don’t overschedule. Keep adult led, organized activities to a minimum if at all in the early years of life.
  • Make a play friendly space. Kids do not need high tech gadgets or expensive toys. Create a home that allows for exploration of the world indoors and outside.
  • Child led. Play shouldn’t be forced, but directed by the child.
  • Adults need to remember how to play. When was the last time you played? Or pretended to be someone else? Keep in mind that when our children play, they are working hard at learning. Play as we age becomes a practice in creativity that will atrophy if we don’t practice. While our kids play to learn, we also play to create.
  • Gives you time to talk with your child. No need to give commands or directions in play. Let your child be the parent, or the doctor. Find ways to introduce words they may not know naturally in the conversation of play.

Play isn’t only for recess

By creating literacy rich and meaningful play areas pre-literate children build the oral, vocabulary and systems they will use all throughout their life. So put away the flash cards and resist signing them up for another enrichment program. Allow your child the gift of time for play and watch them soar.

Play IS the foundation of school success

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For Further information

 

Check out these websites

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds
Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Communications, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

Play is the Work of the Child Maria Montessori

Book Review: Ida and the Whale by Rebecca Gugger

blur-boat-paper-416904 (1)When I was a kid, I lived in a valley with a creek to the east of our property and a small stream that ran between us and our neighbor’s yard. After a storm, that little stream swelled to the tops of the banks with water and my sisters and I would put together boats with whatever materials we had on hand. Paper, mayo jar lids, sticks. Whatever would float and then we would see if we could race it to where the small culvert dumped into the larger creek.

The illustrations in Ida and the Whale, by Rebecca Gugger, from page one took me right back to that stream and those afternoons we spent in the creek. Making boats, making-believe we were stranded on an island and only had the woods and water to sustain us.

Ida is a girl who questions the world. She wants to see all the big things in the universe. The sun, the moon, the stars, and through her imagination she calls a whale to swim her through the forest of birch trees to touch the sky.

Fantastical? Yes. Whimsical? For sure. Ida is the child that still is inside each one of us, if we could put away our grown up logic and systems and worries. After reading this book, I wanted to take off my shoes and go stomp in a puddle or find a field to lay in and

Just. Hear. Silence.

Ida and the Whale, won’t make sense to most adults, but I know when you read this book to your child she will dream big and isn’t that the magic of stories?

Literacy skill highlighted

Print Motivation. Kids love fantastical books as they get older. This might be a tough read for a young preschooler, but older preschoolers or kindergarteners will enjoy the questions she has.

Activity beyond the book

Get outside. Find a field to lay in, a stream to explore, or just sit and watch a sunset. This book screams to be re-enacted in the real world.

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Pre-order

(I am an amazon affiliate, which means if you click the picture and make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a portion of the sale.)

  • Will be published on April 2, 2019
  • Written by Rebecca Gugger and illustrated by  Simon Röthlisberger

Other books to enjoy: