Playing and learning through literacy (teaching ideas)

This summer, students in READ 6313 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lily Garcia

As a first grade teacher I am aware that the child’s attention span is short for the million things they have to learn on a daily basis. One thing I like to do to develop their literacy is by making it fun for them as they are learning. Literacy begins with spoken language, so having my first graders exposed to rhyme and alliteration helps them so much and they enjoy doing centers with those activities that without knowing they are “playing” but learning at the same time.

I know one thing that sometimes isn’t liked very much in classrooms is when they are considered “noisy”, but teachers and administrators need to allow children to talk as much as they can. So even during free play, teachers should go up to a child and ask what they are doing. Engage in a conversation on the child’s level and go along with whatever the child says, but the system now a days goes straight into asking stem questions and higher order thinking questions when the child hasn’t developed the foundation yet and if those questions are not asked then we as teachers are not doing our job right, when in reality we are.

I believe in having children work through play whether it’s in group activities or drama plays with puppets or costumes to have the child develop their literacy development. When children interact with one another on a playing level they develop relationships and forms of communicating that will benefit them in the long run. Another thing I like to have my students do is play with letter blocks and stamps, they express themselves in writing and tell each other words they’ve learned and are at the same time teaching and understanding one another. They enjoy having their centers on a daily basis and all I have to do is make sure to teach them a couple of times so they are all aware of what to do and they are able to take off on their own. Students at the first grade age level love to be helpers, so another thing we do in my classroom is read aloud on a daily basis. When we all go to the carpet I allow students to hold books as we read and I give them a chance to understand the story by allowing them to put on puppet shows. Puppet shows are great because students need to use creative thinking and verbal cues to put a story together and let me tell you they come up with some fantastic scenarios.

In order to develop literacy at an early age we need to ask a lot of questions, ask them to predict what will happen, what do they know based on the pictures etc. Having a small library setup in my own classroom is also a fantastic idea since children enjoy going over to it and look at books, I’ve noticed that they pick books that seem to be attractive for them, so I make sure to display books with bright covers and eye catching scenes since most of them at that age are visual learners.

I can gladly say that with these activities in use in my own classroom I have been able to get some millionaire readers for our AR scores, my children have developed a liking for literacy that to them it was all fun and play while they were picking up everything they need to learn without realizing it. What you model is what they will pick up and since reading is constantly modeled in my classroom, they love to pick up books and read to one another with expression, intonation and act out scenarios.

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Dalia Gutierrez

Read aloud helps promote literacy and learning for young children. Many Read Alouds are important because it helps them acquire the information and skills they need to succeed in school. This helps children realize certain things in literature such as the meaning of words, and being able to enjoy reading in general.

When reading to children the teacher must make sure that the children feel safe and secure. The teacher must read with enthusiasm so the children can enjoy being read to; this promotes children to be more interested in reading.

The Read Aloud offers the students explanations to their questions, and also helps them make observations. Teachers often talk about the background of the story to inform the children and to discuss the character’s actions in relation to what they are doing in class.

It seems though that parents who Read Aloud to their children are able to quickly and more effectively asses their children’s ability to comprehend words, and while doing this the parent and the child are able to bond more. Children like to hear exciting books to enhance their imagination and as well as their vocabulary. Young children thrive on repetition, so he may want to hear the same book numerous times. This will help build vocabulary and reading skills. Involving a child in the selection process also helps him build confidence and self-esteem.

An effective way of helping the child understand words and looking at the words is for the parent to guide with their finger under the word so that the child could get a better understanding of what the word means. The parent could use sound effects to set the mood for the story, and different sound effects to describe the characters’ way of behaving such as making a deeper voice for someone who’s angry or a soft voice for caring person. All of these contribute to the children’s understanding of emotions within the book in relation to life.

A picture book is very helpful when conducting a Read Aloud. The parent can then have the child participate, for example, hearing what the child has to say about the picture or give a prediction to what may happen next. Finally, parents should come up with their own stories to set a positive influence in the child. With the parent telling their own story this lets the child learn new vocabulary. In turn the child should be allowed to tell their own story using the new vocabulary they were taught. This makes Reading Aloud exhilarating for them.

Both educators and parents play a strong role in ensuring that young readers are engaged during read aloud time.

Think about your style of speaking. If you know you speak quickly, try to make an effort to slow down when you read. Conversely, speeding up a little if you tend to speak and read slowly can help keep a child engaged. Read with expression, but stay within your comfort zone. If you are uncomfortable trying something new, your child will be too.

( How Educators and Parents Can Sustain Interest by Dorit Sasson)

As a Center Manager of Head Start it is very important to get our three and four years old children engage in reading. Each classroom is set up with a Library and the teachers have trained our parents how to check books out on weekly basis so they can read to their children for fifteen minutes every day. Implementing the read aloud at a very young age will give the child the learning foundation needed to do well in the public school.


Lack of Literature in Day Care Classrooms

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By B. Diaz

It’s been 2 hours since the inspection, to regulate and observe the center, began and there has not been one book pulled out to be read to the children. In my line of work this is a typical observation of what happens in a day care classroom. It seems as though caregivers do not take the time to implement literature in their daily schedule. Excuse me, let me change my last statement; caregivers have literature/library/story time on their schedule but is not implemented.

There is tons of children’s literature available at our fingertips, so why is it not being used? This question should constantly be asked by inspectors, such as me, parents, and the center directors. Instead it seems as though it is being over looked because maybe we or they feel that they are not knowledgeable in literature.

We have been told and told again that children are sponges and are taking in all the information they are coming across. We are now at a cross point, these are the children we need to start implementing literature with but we are allowing caregivers not to implement it. How does this make any sense? If we want to help caregivers with implementing literature in their classrooms then we should ask them the most important questions. These questions are:

  • Do you have the literature needed to supplement the theme or lesson of the week?
  • Why are you not implementing the literature available for you?
  • How can I help you to implement the literature for the theme of the week?

I have noticed unfortunately that a lot of day care centers do not have the literature available in the classrooms. If this is the case as a caregiver there are always the public libraries where the literature can be taken and used in the lesson. Now if this is the case as a director, budgeting needs to be looked at so literature can be purchased and placed in the classrooms or in a central room that will eventually become your library. If you are a parent and you notice your child’s center is lacking funds for books, hand me downs are still always useful. There can also be collaboration between the center staff and parents to have a fundraiser and use the monies for literature.

If center directors have not questioned why the caregivers are not implementing then how can they help them implement the literature? Directors, if you find that caregivers feel they are not knowledgeable on how to use literature in their lessons or what to look for in children’s literature. At this time it would be best to enroll them in classes or register for trainings that focus on literature.

Children are being robbed of literature in their lives at such a young age. We ask ourselves questions such as why don’t children like to read or why don’t children know how to read? Questions such as these could be answered if literature was implemented in a fun, exciting manner at a young age. It is my opinion from my number of observations that it should start in day care classrooms.

Parents Set the Course for Success!

This semester in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature, students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Solis

Reading is an important part of your children’s development and should start at home. Begin reading to your children from day one—it is never too early to begin. Your children will enjoy the rhythm of your voice and the comfort of your arms as you read. You do not have to wait for them to start school and you do not have to stop once they have started school.

Why should you read to your children? Reading to your children has tremendous benefits. It encourages language development, it helps build vocabulary, it supports literacy skills, it creates a bond between you and your children, and it helps your children recognize and experience reading for pleasure.

Where can you find inexpensive books? You may find free or inexpensive books at your local library, garage sales, flea markets, discount stores, and/or books stores. There are always sales!

What type of books should you use? For infant and toddlers, use board books. Board books have thick pages which makes it easier for them to turn. In addition, board books can be wiped clean and endure a nibble or two. For older toddlers, use interactive books such as lift-the-flap and/or with textures.

What type of genres should you read? It is best to expose your children to a variety of books. There are assortments of genres to choose from: picture books, picture story books, folktales, fairy tales, fables, legends, myths, historical fiction, modern fantasies, realistic fiction, poetry and drama, biographies, and multicultural books.

What types of genres are best? They are all beneficial. However, begin reading picture books. As your children begin to grow older, introduce books that are of interest to them.   Then you may gradually present different genres. If your children do not like a particular type of book—it is okay. Move on to another genre and try reintroducing the books they did not like at a later time.

What books should you select? Select books that reflect your children’s interests. The best way to find out is to ask or observe. You may also select books to help generate interest in a particular topic.

For infants and toddlers, select books with: rich illustrations that help support the text, simple rhyming, repetitive phrases, and a cumulative story.

For older children, make selecting books to read fun. Turn the experience into an adventure. Go to your local library and hunt for books together. Rummage through boxes at garage sales and flea markets to find suitable books. Search through shelves at different stores for interesting and inexpensive books.

How often and how long should you read? Read to your children every day. Make it a routine. Read to them at the same time, preferably at bed time. Be sensitive to their attention spans. You do not have to read the whole selection and you do not have to read word for word. Build up to at least 15 minutes per day. The key is not to force it upon them—remember it is supposed to be a pleasurable experience.

Read to your children. Begin early, do it every day, and enjoy the experience. Set the course for success!

Reading to Infants and Toddlers

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By E. Perez

What is the big deal about reading to infants and toddlers? Why is it important to read to them? Are there successful strategies to use when reading to infants and toddlers? What type of books should be read to young children?

It always fascinates me to hear all the reasons why we should NOT spend our time reading to infants and toddlers. “Babies do not understand what is being read to them.” “They can’t even talk, how will they contribute to reading a book?” “All infants do is place books in their mouths and chew on them.”

Reading to infants and toddlers is a big deal. Introducing, sharing and reading books to children at an early age can establish a strong foundation for later literacy skills. Reading builds curiosity, introduces them to new words, and it provides a positive association with books. Sure young children do not have a long attention span, but they are interested in books and they love to be read to.

We do not expect infants or toddlers to be able to read, but the skills that lead them to be successful readers begin in the early years. It is important as parents and early child care teachers to make lots of books available to these young children, provide them with plenty of experiences with books, read to them as much as possible and ensure we are responsive to children who want to be read to. When one reads to infant and toddlers, they become familiar with the sound of language and learn that print in these books have meaning.

Parents and early child care teachers can engage children in the reading process. When reading, adults should point out to different words and make connections between text and the imagery in the book. Infants and toddlers should be given the opportunity to handle and explore books; even it means they will put the book in their mouths. Share control of the book. When looking through a picture book, adult should point to and name the picture. Observe how the children respond to the books. Talk to the children about the picture books and help them make connections to familiar items. Providing young children with books allows them to learn the skills on how to handle books.

Infant and toddler children should be exposed to books with basic concepts such as numbers, colors, shapes, letters, and interest items. Helen Oxenbury and Eric Carle’s books share some of these basic concepts.

1 2 3


Zero to Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families recommend providing infant and toddler children with the following type of books.

  • Books with simple pictures.
  • Chunky books or fold out books that can be propped up in the crib.
  • Cloth and soft vinyl books with simple pictures that can be washed.
  • Small plastic photo albums of family and friends.
  • Books with few words on each page.
  • Books with simple rhymes or predictable text.
  • Textured books.
  • Books with animals of all sizes and shapes.

As an advocate of young children, I believe one of the primary benefits of reading to infant and toddlers is their development of early language and pre-literacy skills.

Imagination is Unlimited

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Cynthia Salazar

As an early childhood educator, I strongly believe that imagination plays a huge role in every child’s education. Reading and imagination go hand in hand as it helps the child envision their books from their own perspective. A child would not be able to comprehend a text without using background knowledge, reading strategies and of course his/her imagination. The following are some examples of activities that promote children’s use of imagination.

Pretend and Play

Pretend play is an activity that contributes to children using their imagination meanwhile they develop their language skills as well as their social interactions. Children can invent their own games and entertain themselves with the simplest things an adult wouldn’t. Why? Because they can use their imagination to create, innovate and adapt to different scenarios from the ocean to the sky and from super heroes to ordinary people. Children are experts at pretend and play. As teachers, we should take advantage of their imagination to make writing and reading interesting for them. Of course, there are some children that may not know how to use their imagination. It is our job to explain and model for them how to use their imagination conveniently for learning.


Mystery Box

We have heard a million times that children learn through hands-on activities, and we should provide them with different opportunities to use and expand their imagination. A particular activity I like to use with my students is the mystery box. The mystery box consists of placing random objects inside a box and students need to create a story using the objects. This allows them to use their background knowledge and imagination about each object. It is a great group activity because they can discuss, convince, and persuade their peers using their story. One of the rules of this activity is that there is no right or wrong story. This allows students to be creative and also allows their imagination to fly. Afterwards, students can tell the story to the rest of the class or write it out so everybody can see it. Teachers may adapt this strategy depending on the grade level being taught. However, the idea of not involving print in this activity may be more appealing for the lower grades because they can also develop their language throughout the use of conversations with their peers.


Reading Classic Fairy Tales

Classic read aloud, such as fairy tales and fantasy books, will help children have a better understanding about the use of imagination. Some fairytales can include but are not limited to The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Where the Wild Things Are. Children will get motivated to become authors and use their imagination to write or retell their unique stories.

Exposing children to a different end or twisted version of these classic stories will give them the opportunity to appreciate the book from a different perspective. Books such as The Stinky Cheese Man, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Wolf’s Story are just a few examples of books that present children with the other side of the story told by another character from the book. This will not only teach children to use their imagination but also think outside the box. Children can decide which side of the story they like best.


Wordless Books

Another great idea to help children unfold their imagination is to expose them to wordless picture books where they can interpret and create their own story lines guiding themselves by only using the illustrations from the book. Some picture books that can be helpful for this activity and that my students really enjoy are Chalk by Bill Thomson, Flotsam by David Wiesner, Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka and Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola . Wordless books are a great asset in the introduction of imagination to the lower grade students which also gets them hooked on reading.

Wordless Wordless2

Children of all ages can practice these activities and expand their imagination which can significantly contribute not only with their reading skills but also with their writing and language skills.

Motivating Children to Become Lifelong Readers

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Rosa Nydia Peña

Motivation plays a huge role in anything a student does, especially when it comes to reading. It determines if the reader will actually understand and enjoy the text. Cell phones, iPods, tablets, and gaming.  All things that modern day children do instead of bettering their education.  There may be quite a few distractions in modern day learning, but one should never give up on a child’s ability to read.  Not only should an educator never give up on teaching, but a child should never lose his or her will to read.  The goal here should be to motivate the child to continue reading through his or her lifetime.  Motivation is a must, especially for a child since he or she is at the point where they are finding habits that will make or break them later on in life.

In some cases, we have students who can become lost in a book that interests them so much that they become intently lost in the pages. When students find books that interest them and have the “flow” experience they are more likely to pick up another interesting book in the future.  This is exactly what we need for students to be doing.  As educators, we need to find a way to help the child find the type of books he or she likes so that reading as homework or as a hobby will not be a bore and we can keep the reader attentive in the book.  We could start this off by having incentives for students.

The majority of children if not all, usually like to have a reason to complete something.  Maybe even an incentive for completing the task.  Recess, candy bar, or a free hour or half hour of play time could all be things that the students who completed the reading of a book of their choice by the end of the week, would gain.  Sooner or later, students won’t notice that they aren’t being rewarded for something that they are doing because they are so caught up in a good read.  Either way, it is something an educator should look into so that children will be able to have something to look forward to at the end of the week. Several things you can use would be by providing toys and activities that would motivate a child for example, playthings: blocks, crayons and paper depending on their grade level. This things encourage children to invent their own worlds rather than depending on an adult to entertain them.   If you see a child that is struggling there are several strategies one can use toys to increase a child’s imagination. By doing this you are able to gauge at what level the child will be at. One will see his or hers facial expressions and determine what level they might be. My personal favorite would be share your own love of books. Bring your personal books to a classroom , so your children can see you reading them during independent reading time. Tell children what you are reading now and what you plan to read next. When the book is finished, tell them how it made you feel. Explain to them how reading books taught you about the world, helped you better understand other people, and showed them how to do new things.  We are not determining the child’s weakness we are trying to expand their need to become lifelong readers. Our goal as educators is to see the child succeed and reading is the most fundamental aspect of a child’s education. We need to be aware and be proactive in focusing on those few who will need that extra attention and time. Even if the child is determined to be a struggling reader no child should be left behind. The key factor will always be motivation but that will solely depend on the teacher in the classroom and also to motivate the parent as well.

eric carle