Unit 9.5 Play and literacy

Literacy begins long before children enter primary school. Babies begin to acquire literacy skills as you read to them. Literacy skills are acquired throughout childhood through reading, talking and by exploring an environment that is rich in books, stories, rhymes and poems.

Make-believe play is a powerful tool for developing literacy. Through pretend play children develop the ability to use symbols to represent their ideas. For example, when children use rocks for food, their brain is practicing working with symbols. This sets the foundation for interpreting other symbols such as letters and numbers later on.

To enhance literacy, read to children every day. Make sure quality books are readily available to the children. Invite children to talk about the stories that you read. Dramatize rhymes and stories, show interest in their fanciful dialogue and offer to write down their stories for them.

Provide materials that encourage scribbling and writing. Include pen and paper of different sizes, stamps and envelopes, stapled paper books for storytelling, white board with erasable pens, and chalkboard and chalk. It is not necessary for children to fill out work sheets and trace letters to learn how to read and write.