Play Literacy and Every Child Ready to Read
LEAP (Literacy Education at Play) combines two different literacy programs, one aimed at parents and the other at their children. Every Child Ready to Read is a parent education program developed by the National Institute of Health in collaboration with the American Library Association. The other program, Play Literacy, takes place in the preschool classroom and was developed and tested by Madison Public Library (WI). A member of MPL’s staff served as a consultant for LEAP’s pilot year, and we are in their debt. Play Literacy is based on the idea that children learn best through play.
The LSTA funding allowed us to bring LEAP to four different sites: a private childcare center, a center run by the city, a State pre-Kindergarten program, and even to Head Start, with the most jealously guarded classroom minutes in the business. Every month, classroom by classroom, we visited about 500 preschoolers to present a Play Literacy session. At events hosted by centers, we taught their parents about early literacy using the conceptual framework of Every Child Ready to Read. By guiding children into exercising their early literacy skills and by teaching their parents how those skills are nurtured at home, LEAP advocates the pleasures, ability, and importance of reading.
We developed six themed kits: Pizza, Construction, Laundry, Flower Shop, Veterinarian, and Post Office. Our team conducts each play session in the classroom, and they follow a regular pattern. We read a book about the theme, then discuss the theme to elicit what the children already know about it as well as to introduce vocabulary. Two LEAP team members model play using the theme, and then the children play, with the adults interacting. The children gather again for a final poem or book about the theme.
After we presented a theme, we gave the teachers a mini-kit of the same materials to use as a classroom center. Play Literacy requires a lot of materials because each kit must serve twenty-five children. Much of our funding went for quantities of plastic pizzas, menu holders, blocks, doctors’ tools, artificial flowers and the like.
To our colleagues in library service to young people: please try Play Literacy! It uses a book as a jumping off point, taps children’s natural zest for play, and shows you how even a middle-aged librarian can learn a new trick.
LEAP Team: Laura Antolín, Rick Kinnebrew, Martha Meyer
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License