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Read, Play, and Learn!
Storybook Activities for Young Children


Toni Lender


Table of Contents

Chapter 1

What Is Read, Play, and Learn?

Read, Play, and Learn! is a play-based, storybook-oriented curriculum that you and the children with whom you work are going to enjoy. Utilizing storybooks as a framework for providing highly stimulating experiences for learning, this curriculum offers a functional approach to educating young children. Read, Play, and Learn! allows you to incorporate skills training across all of the developmental domains while letting children select what is motivating to them and have fun while learning.

Using the charm of storybooks, you, the facilitator, with your learners' parents/caregivers and other team members, provide a theme-based approach to encouraging and supporting each child's growth and development. The curriculum consists of this Teacher's Guide and a series of instructional modules, each designed around a popular storybook. The modules creatively build from the concepts, ideas, actions, and events of the stories in order to make learning more relevant for children. Each module is used for 2 weeks or longer as appropriate to your needs. Each day begins with the reading of the story followed by a range of activities for the many centers of a preschool or kindergarten class or a child care program. The retelling and rereading of the storybooks each day enhance emergent literacy skills, whereas the many suggested activities help promote children's growth across the core domains of development.

The design of this curriculum not only gives you a fun way to teach children between the chronological ages of 3 and 6 years, but it also shows you, through the inclusion of specialists in the planning process, how to incorporate therapeutic interventions for children functioning at a younger age, even those as developmentally young as I or 2 years. Employing themes in the classroom enables children to engage in a variety of activities suited to their developmental abilities and all relating to the same concepts. Repetition of these concepts across numerous and diverse situations encourages the generalization of knowledge and skills. Vocabulary, actions, and information related to the themes contained in the storybooks are expanded into activities that enhance cognitive (problem- solving), socialemotional, communication and language, and sensorimotor skills. Emerging literacy development is also encouraged through the child's familiarity and comfort with the storybook and the activities and environment developed for the module.

Although the curriculum presents ideas for centers and activities for 2-week units related to individual stories, each story is intended to serve as a flexible foundation for team planning for children of all developmental levels. The activities may be spread out over a longer period of time or may be deleted or adapted as dictated by the length of the day and needs and interests of the children. It should also be noted that the storybooks used for the curriculum framework are not the only books to which the children are exposed. Throughout the day at the Literacy Center and during reading time, many other books will be available and will be explored and read. The storybook serves as the thematic core around which other books can be integrated.

What are the Goals of the Curriculum?

In Read, Play, and Learn" the desired educational and developmental outcomes result from play activities and experiences that all derive from and relate to the expansion of concepts and actions presented in various storybooks. Reading the story and dramatizing the story are accentuated first in the Read, Play, and Learn! modules as they lay the foundation for the other centers and activities within the classroom. Areas, or centers set up around the room with various activities related to the story, are designed to provide toys, materials, and experiences to address specific developmental outcomes.

Individualization of instruction takes place as a result of the adaptations provided for each child within the center and the interactions among the child, other peers, and you, the facilitator, who is encouraging learning while the children are hard at play. Not only can children become involved in the telling and dramatizing of the story, but they can also have developmental needs and literacy skills reinforced through the supplemental activities in the various play areas. Infusion of emerging literacy development into a play-based, storybook oriented curriculum is a potent means of presenting the written word, visual symbols, concepts about print, and sequential storytelling within a meaningful context for children. The goals of Read, Play, and Learn! are as follows:


  1. To enable all children to actively participate through play in classroom activities that are relevant, challenging, and designed to promote independent learning and facilitate developmental progress
  2. To provide a literature -based framework for learning for all children that encompasses cognitive, social -emotional, communication and language, and sensorimotor development
  3. To encourage learning across the above domains (Goal 2) in a literacy-rich environment that expands children's competence and methods of expression and broadens their desire to learn to read, write, and communicate through numerous modalities, including print

Thus, Read, Play, and Learn! is a transdisciplinary play-based curriculum (TPBC) This term represents a very important way of thinking about planning for young children's learning because it encompasses the perspectives of the different domains of development and focuses on building your curriculum with activities that are motivating to each child. (The origins of the TPBC concept, as well as related readings on transdisciplinary play-based assessment and intervention, are described briefly later in this chapter; see page 14.)

What are the Components of the Curriculum?

The Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum is presented in a series of individual booklets, or instructional modules. Each module features a different popular children's story and presents engaging, theme-based activities to accompany that story. (The storybooks themselves are available through local libraries or bookstores as well as on the World Wide Web; you can try such sites as or; complete bibliographic data appear in each module.) Suggestions for additional stories are provided at the back of each module, some of which may be appropriate substitutions if you have trouble obtaining the recommended storybook. Before using any of the modules, be sure that you are thoroughly familiar with the contents of this Teacher's Guide.

The Storybook Modules

The storybook modules range in topic from seasonal themes to predictable sequences, from emotional issues to culture heritages. Some are based on storybooks that are just plain fun. The storybook modules of Read, Play, and Learn! are offered in easy-to-use booklets that are sold in boxed sets referred to as "Collections." Collections I and 2 each contain eight modules, and together they span a typical fall-to-spring school year (see page 74 of each module for ordering information, and contact Brookes Publishing for information on the availability of other collections):

Collection 1


  1. The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn
  2. Somebody and the Three Blairs, by Marilyn Tolhurst
  3. Picking Apples &Pumpkins, by Amy and Richard Hutchings
  4. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams
  5. The Knight and the Dragon, by Tomie dePaola
  6. Abiyoyo, by Pete Seeger
  1. Night Tree, by Eve Bunting
  2. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

Collection 2


  1. A Porcupine Named Fluffy, by Helen Lester
  2. First Flight, by David McPhail
  3. Friends, by Helme Heine
  4. The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Janet Stevens
  5. The Three Little Javelinas, by Susan Lowell
  6. A Rainbow of Friends, by RK. Hallinan
  7. Franklin Hasa Sleepover, by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark
  8. The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister

Throughout the chapters of this Teacher's Guide, you will find illustrative examples drawn from these stories.

You can use the modules in the sequence suggested by these collections or in any other order that suits your needs, that suits the time of year or your geographic location and climate, or that suits the interests of your learners. Users are also invited to develop additional modules following the same or a similar format. New modules may be developed by brainstorming with a team around creative activities and experiences or a favorite book. Selected ideas should be organized into center-based applications and sequenced to be sure that the various play areas across the day are interrelated. Modules may also be submitted for possible inclusion in future collections; inquire with the publisher, or watch for more information at our web site at

The Module Format

Each module follows the same format and has the following sections:


  1. The Story: A brief retelling or summary of the picture book, with information on where to get the book
  2. The Planning Sheets: Charts for at-a-glance reference to all of the suggested activities for the 2 weeks
  3. Vocabulary: A list of the key words and concepts, including labels, action words, and descriptors, to which the children can be introduced in the module
  4. Materials: A list of the toys and equipment, supplies, food, and other items needed for the module
  5. Areas/Centers: A description of 10 days of different activities for each area or center in the classroom, plus suggested modifications for the children functioning at the sensorimotor, functional, and symbolic levels of learning (described in the next section)
  6. How to Involve Families: Sample letters with recommendations to help keep family members or other caregivers informed
  7. More Suggestions: Additional storybooks and other activities (e.g., songs, fingerplays, resources, computer games) that can be used with the module

The centers, or areas of the classroom referenced previously, include a place for reading the story at the start of each day; an area to dramatize the story; a literacy center; areas for sensory and motor play; an art area; and sites for science and math activities, floor play, table play, outdoor play, woodworking, and snack.

These centers may be distinct or may overlap. For example, a miniature story scenario might be found on the table, on the floor, or on the floor combined with the block area to encourage further building of the scenario. All of the areas may be the areas or set up in the room, or the team may choose to generate only a few of centers at one time. Team members from half-day and full-day programs may use the centers differently. Full-day programs may have centers grouped for morning and afternoon or may offer children more time at the centers. The team may add to or change the areas for each storybook as is deemed necessary to maintain the children's high level of involvement (see Chapter 4). Use your imagination, and have fun with the design of your classroom or child care center.

Levels of understanding and Learning

Activities and experiences are developed within the curriculum at three developmental levels across each of the areas. These three levels are not geared to specific ages but are somewhat flexible groupings of developmental age levels in the cognitive and language domains to simplify planning for an entire classroom of children. More information about developmental levels and specific guidelines for individualized planning for children are provided in Transdisciplinary Play-Based Intervention: Guidelines for Developing a Meaningful Curriculum for Young Children (Linder, 1993c), as described later in this chapter (see "Are There Related Products?" on page 14).

The first level of understanding and learning is the sensorimotor level (sometimes called the exploratory level), when children are interested in concrete labels and meanings, social interactions, and physical manipulation of the environment. Learning takes place through various forms of sensory exploration. This level corresponds roughly to the cognitive and language levels of children functioning from early infancy to about 18 months of age.

The second level of understanding and learning is the functional level, when children are interested in listening and watching, imitating, relating, and beginning to sequence ideas and actions. Learning becomes more socially instigated but is still very concrete and sensory, involving functional objects and actions. This level coincides approximately with children functioning from about 18 months to 3 years of age.

The third level, approximately 3 years of age and older, is the symbolic level, when children become interested in learning and representing their understandings though a variety of representational and symbolic means, including fantasy play, storytelling, music, dance, art, drawing, and print.

The suggestions provided in the Read, Play, and Learn! modules at these three levels will expedite planning, as these levels will encompass the ready-to-learn, or cognitive, levels of all the children in the class. Modifications will also need to be made for the physical, social, and sensory disabilities that may compromise children's learning. Suggestions for these adaptations are in Chapters 4, 5, and 6.

Where and When Can the Curriculum be Used?

Read, Play, and Learn! can be implemented in any child care, preschool, early education, Head Start, or kindergarten program that emphasizes a developmental approach to learning. It can be utilized with various schedules within programs. The activities and experiences suggested in the modules can be included in choice" times, spread out through the day, or extended over a longer period of time than the recommended 2 weeks. Your educational and therapeutic team should meet on a regular basis to determine which of the modules' activities will motivate the children to become absorbed in the play, which need to be modified, what sequence of activities is desired, and whether additional experiences will be needed to supplement the ones suggested in the curriculum. The team plans from the modules provided, implements the activities selected, and meets to evaluate and discuss the effectiveness of activities for individual children.

Why Use Read, Play, and Learn!?

As a transdisciplinary play-based curriculum, Read, Play, and Learn! is valuable for two reasons: It ensures success in a literacy-based culture, and it capitalizes on the children's natural inclinations.

To Ensure Success in a Literacy-Based Culture

Play is the natural mode of learning for young children. Many early education programs, however, emphasize preacademics in preparation for academic curricula for school-age children. As academics assume greater significance in the early learning environments, play is frequently deemphasized. Some curricula accentuate developmental domains, with only cursory inclusion of emerging literacy development. Other curricula are primarily focused on teaching preacademic skills and stressing memorization of letters, sounds, numbers, and words. Either approach does a disservice to children. Literacy can and should be encouraged in developmentally sound sequences using motivating methods to which young children can relate. Few pastimes are more motivating to children than play. The use of literature and play activities related to storybooks provides teachers with a natural mode for developing a literacy-rich environment that infuses into the curriculum the necessary cognitive, language and communication, motor, and social components to build literacy skills. Phonemic awareness, an important component of literacy development, can be addressed along with the listening, comprehending, and communicating skills that lay the foundation for literacy development.

To Capitalize on the Children's Natural Inclinations

The combination of literature and play builds on two interests of young children: 1) the desire to learn about and communicate to others knowledge about the people, places, things, and ideas that are having an impact on the children's world; and 2) the need to increase the number of ways that such knowledge can be acquired and shared. Edwards, Gandini, and Forman (1995) identified many "languages" that children use. In addition to verbal language, children use bodily expression to communicate in many ways, including gestures, actions, words, dramatizations, and pictures, among others. Emerging literacy development can best be fostered through means that tap into these natural forms of learning and expression, specifically through the highly stimulating venue of play. Dramatic play enables a child to represent his or her world through symbolic actions. Communication through words or signs enables a child to communicate through yet another symbolic system. Learning to read and write involves developing an understanding of a new symbol system to represent words and ideas. Once children develop an awareness of this written symbol system and learn to use symbols as a means of expression, they then can move through the cognitive, language, and fine motor developmental sequences needed to use this symbol system to both acquire and impart information.

Who Can Benefit from Read, Play, and Learn!

The benefits of a curriculum based on literature and play are numerous. Although young children are the obvious targets of the curriculum, others profit as well. individuals who work with children and parents/ caregivers in homes with young children will acquire new knowledge and skills that will improve their abilities to enhance children's development.

Young Children

All young children whose cultures recognize the importance of self-expression in its many forms can benefit from Read, Play, and Learn! Children, whether typically developing, advanced, or experiencing delays or deviations in their development, need a foundation that will inspire them to learn to listen, think, communicate, and learn about their world in as many modes as possible. The use of storybooks that capture interests and imaginations provides the framework for young learners to become involved in experiences that challenge them developmentally.

People Who Work with Young Children

Because the storybook curriculum incorporates ideas from all developmental domains and modifies activities and interactions to meet the needs of a wide spectrum of children, the people who work with young children can also benefit from this curriculum. Most teacher- training programs do not prepare teachers adequately to understand the disparate learning and developmental needs of young children with a broad range of abilities. In fact, most "methods" courses for teachers of young children focus on typically developing children. The trend toward including children of all ability levels into a single learning environment, however, necessitates the expansion of teachers' knowledge and skills related to working with a group of children with diverse learning needs.

This curriculum provides teachers and other team members with strategies as well as the justification for using those strategies to facilitate the development of children with and without disabilities in all of the developmental domains. When transdisciplinary teams use the curriculum for planning purposes, team members learn from each other how best to meet the needs of individual children. Discussing what modifications will be needed for specific children, planning for the adaptation of content and strategies, and identifying the facilitation techniques appropriate for each child lead to better teaching and intervention for all children.


Parents of young children are viewed as key players in Read, Play, and Learn! After all, the "T" in TPBC stands for "transdisciplinary," and that means parents, too. Parents know their children better than anyone else, and teachers miss an important opportunity to extend learning if they do not invite family members to participate. The storybook themes provide an easy mechanism for parents to replicate school readings at home as well as a centerpiece for discussing the child's experiences at school each day. You can provide parents with guidelines for helping their children to love listening to, reading, and writing words and stories. (Chapter 8 gives you plenty of information, including handouts to photocopy and send home, that shows families how they can use the storybooks and make their homes literacy-rich environments for everyone.) In addition to the family materials in this Teacher's Guide, each module includes sample letters you can send to parents. The letters introduce each book, explain what is going to be happening in the classroom, and provide suggestions for how the fun at school can become fun at home. Back-and-forth communication between home and school is an important element of a successful program. Through written communication, spoken exchange, and classroom participation, parents should be integral members of your educational team.

Substantial family participation and involvement is critical for effective child assessment and education. Research has shown that children's development is enhanced across all domains and that children show an increased interest in school when their parents are involved in their education (Coleman, 1991; Powell, 1989; Rich, 1985). Indeed, parents, teachers, and schools overall benefit from effective communication, information exchange, participation in school activities, and educational planning (Wishon, Crabtree, & Jones, 1998).

Who Can Use Read, Play, and Learn!

Most curricula for young children are designed to be used by teachers or early childhood educators. By its very label as a transdisciplinary play-based curriculum, however, it is clear that Read, Play, and Learn! can be used by professionals in many disciplines. As classrooms become larger or more children with special needs are included in general education classrooms, teacher assistants and other professionals come to play a vital role in the implementation of the curricula. Administrators, too, now play a greater role in supporting classroom environments and explaining the curriculum to parents and the community.

Teachers, Early Childhood Educators, and Reading Specialists

The curriculum can be used by child care providers, Head Start instructors, preschool and kindergarten teachers, early childhood professionals, and reading specialists in consultation with related- services professionals. The recommended model is 1) inclusive, integrating children with special needs into the classroom; 2) transdisciplinary, integrating various disciplines into assessment, planning, and direct classroom education and intervention; and 3) developmental, integrating hierarchical skills and developmental processes into the curriculum. Teachers will be able to use Read, May, and Learn! to plan for both groups and individual children.

Therapists and Related-Services Personnel

The curriculum will assist speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, mobility specialists, vision and hearing specialists, and other professionals in incorporating intervention and therapy into the functional, meaningful activities of the classroom. Professionals can also use the classroom activities as a common basis for discussion of approaches in communicating with each other about individual children's needs. Other members on your team could include a nurse, psychologist, nutritionist, or any specialist assisting the children in your classroom.

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants can be more meaningfully involved in the classroom program because the curriculum involves all staff in planning and implementing the daily activities as well as modifying them to meet individual children's needs. The structure of the Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum will enable the assistant to understand not only the activities but also the justification for modifications. The assistant should be involved in planning meetings with the rest of the staff.


Administrators will be able to use the curriculum to define the goals, outcomes, and educational and therapeutic processes that frame education for the early years. The philosophy of Read, Play, and Learn! and the other transdisciplinary play-based products supports the acquisition of developmental and preacademic skills necessary for success in the elementary school years. The unification of cognitive, language, social, and motor development with emerging literacy development creates a program that is educationally and developmentally sound.

Are There Related Products?

Read, Play, and Learn! is an extension of the other transdisciplinary play-based work from Toni Linder. Because most classrooms and child care settings today have children of varying ability levels, you will likely want to become familiar with the other transdisciplinary play-based products as well. Transdisciplinary Play-Based Assessment:A Functional Approach to Working with Young Children, Revised Edition (Linder, 1993a) presents a process for assessing the functional level of children from birth to 6 years of age, across cognitive, social -emotional, communication and language, and sensorimotor development. The process enables people observing the child's play to also determine the child's learning style, interests, and most positive interactional patterns. The information gained from this assessment can then be translated into educational and/or therapeutic program plans. Transdisciplinary Play-Based Intervention: Guidelines for Developing a Meaningful Curriculum for Young Children (Linder, 1993c) presents strategies, materials, and learning experiences appropriate for children at varying levels of development from birth to age 6 who demonstrate differing learning and interaction styles. The strategies provided are individualized for the children depending on their developmental level and personal characteristics. These two volumes link assessment and intervention to provide a holistic approach to learning for each child.

Read, Play, and Learn! provides a means for bringing the individualized focus of transdisciplinary play-based assessment (TPBA) and transdisciplinary playbased intervention (TPBI) into use in group settings. The TPBI approach introduces the use of storybooks but does not highlight it as a key component; Read, Play, and Learn! ties together cognitive, language, motor, and social aspects of development. In other words, Read, Play, and Learn! lets you integrate developmental and cross-domain intervention and education into a classroom of children of varying ability levels. Read, Play, and Learn! can be used in conjunction with other assessment and intervention approaches, but the model is designed specifically to build on the same theoretical and philosophical foundations as TPBA and TPBI. The holistic appraisal of individual children's abilities and needs through observation of play is fundamental to all of the components of the play-based system. As with TPBA and TPBI, flexibility in order to better meet the needs of children is vital. All of the transdisciplinary play-based books, forms (Linder, 1993b), and training videotapes (Linder, 1995, 1996) are available from Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Professionals who want to use Read, Play, and Learn! but are unfamiliar with the TPBA and TPBI can use the storybook curriculum as their starting point. The other volumes are not necessary but will help you when you need to write individualized family service plans (IFSPs) or individualized education programs (IEPs) for any of the children in your classroom. Observing children while engaged in various play activities within the classroom using the TPBA guidelines can help team members assess where and how children are functioning. The TPBI volume then actually gives you a 'Planner" of play materials and suggested opportunities, intervention guidelines, and more to develop individualized programs for children who need extra assistance.

Is a Transdisciplinary Team Essential?

Read, Play, and Learn! is meant to be used by a transdisciplinary team, and staff who are using the curriculum are encouraged to seek professional consultation when planning for the needs of children with developmental delays or disabilities. The greater the input obtained from related- services professionals on adaptations and intervention strategies, the more effective the curriculum will be for each child. The goal of having each child participate to a maximum level in each module can best be achieved through team planning, demonstration, and support. Consequently, team members also need to be involved in the classroom as often as possible. It is recognized, however, that not all programs have access to specialized professionals on a regular basis. For this reason, the curriculum provides some guidance on how to modify activities for children with differing ability levels and various types of disabilities.

Has Read, Play, and Learn! Been Field-Tested?

The modules contained in the curriculum have been field-tested in two programs with differing levels of professional involvement. At one site, implementing a reverse mainstrearning model, therapists functioned as part of the classroom team, with a teacher, a teacher assistant, and one therapist (alternately a speech-language pathologist or an occupational therapist) in the classroom with the children. All of the team members were involved in planning and evaluating the program together. in another inclusive site, teacher assistants were responsible for classroom program implementation with outside consultation from representatives of various disciplines. The model was effective in both sites, with children of all levels and with all types of disabilities, as well as with children who were within the average or gifted range of abilities. In the Foreword "Teacher to Teacher: A Personal View of Read, Play, and Learn!," one teacher who taught in both sites provides a qualitative review of her experiences with the curriculum in both of these sites,


Whether you use Read, Play, and Learn! alone or in combination with other programs and models, keep in mind the importance of each word that TPBC stands for. Recognize the need for individualization and the benefit of obtaining input from others (including parents), encourage children to engage in activities that are motivating to them, and approach learning in your classroom holistically. Read, Play, and Learn! will be most effective when you can combine the creative ideas and individual perspectives of several colleagues from different disciplines, of family members, and/or of administrators. Ask your school or program administrators to consider program structure, staffing patterns, and time for team planning to help everyone benefit from Read, Play, and Learn!


Coleman, J. (199 1). Planning for parent participation in schools for young children. Bloomington, IL: ERIC Digest.

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (1995). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Greenwich, CT Ablex Publishing Corp.

Linder, T.W. (I 993a). Transdisciplinary play-based assessment: A functional approach to working with young children (Rev. ed.). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Linder, T.W. (1993b). Transdisciplinary play-based assessment and intervention: Child and program summary forms. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Linder, T.W. (1993c). Transdisciplinary play-based intervention: Guidelines for developing a meaningful curriculum for young children . Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Linder, T.W. (Producer and writer), & Newman, R.S. (Director and editor). (1995). And you thought they were just playing: Transdisciplinary play-based assessment [Videotape]. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Linder, T.W. (Producer and writer), & Walker, M. (Director and editor). (1996). Observing Kassandra: A transdisciplinary play-based assessment of a child with severe disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Powell, R. (1989). Families and early childhood programs (Research Monographs of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Vol. 3). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Rich, D. (1985). The forgotten factor in school success-the family: A policymaker's guide. Washington, DC: Home and School Institute.

Wishon, P., Crabtree, K., & Jones, M. (1998). Curriculum for the primary years: An integrative approach . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Chapter 8

Encouraging Family Involvement with Read, Play, and Learn!

Susan M. Moore and Toni W. Under

Children learn more and progress faster when both home and school are cooperating to ensure that a child has a good learning environment and is exposed to a broad range of learning experiences. By letting families know about the modules you are using from Read, Play, and Learn! families can have a chance to read the same books at home as you are reading at school, share in their child's school experiences, have additional topics to talk about with their child, and better observe their child's progress as new skills are acquired. Throughout the year, an ongoing dialogue with the families of the children in your classroom is important. This chapter provides you with the following:


  1. Guidelines for developing a family involvement component tailored to your program
  2. Guidelines for conducting workshops that introduce parents and others to the importance of emerging literacy, provide strategies for interactive storybook reading at home, and offer guidance on other topics of concern to families
  3. Reproducible handouts to share with parents, caregivers, and other family members, including basic information about skill building and suggestions for supporting children's reading, playing, and learning

Most families naturally support their children's development by playing with and reading to them. Most families also recognize just how important reading and writing will be to their children's success in school; yet, many may not realize that the development of literacy is dependent on language skills, cognitive skills, fine motor abilities, and social growth. Qualities of the Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum, such as its emphases on repeatedly reading the same stories and engaging in developmental play based on the stories' themes and ideas, allow easy carryover to home activities. Parents are typically pleased to learn that, as part of their regular family routines, they can support their child's development and learning at home without sitting down to teach their child.

You will want to help parents and caregivers see how literacy experiences are embedded in each day and reinforced throughout the 2-3 weeks of activities in each module. The daily rereading and discussing of the story provide children with an understanding of how to read a book, build vocabulary, and lead to an appreciation of the structure and sequence of a story. Dramatizing the story reinforces these concepts through concrete actions and use of literacy props. The science and math activities provide not only opportunities to experiment with numbers and concepts but also additional exposure to the uses of print and its relationship to speech. Making books and exploring forms of print make the components of books personally meaningful. Art activities combine practice with drawing and representing ideas in picture form with representation through symbols and writing.

Developing a Family Involvement Component

With your guidance, parents and caregivers can acquire an awareness of what is taking place in their children's classroom and learn natural interaction strategies that they can easily incorporate into their day. Morrow (1997) recommended communicating with parents through formal and informal methods, both written and oral, as well as individually and in groups. Following are numerous suggestions and strategies from which you and other team members can select to plan a family involvement component for your program. How you communicate and interact with families will be influenced by many factors, including the time of year, the backgrounds of your children and their families, whether a second language is spoken in the home, the literacy level of parents and caregivers, the availability of parents to participate in different activities, and the structure of your program. Remember to monitor your family involvement component throughout the year; use your team to evaluate how well you are staying in touch with the families. Help parents understand that it is in the developmental nature of their child's early learning that they will see progress toward building the foundations for conventional writing. If you are not seeing the results you want, use your weekly team meetings to introduce modifications.

Share Your Program's Philosophy

At the beginning of the year; describe to the parents and caregivers of the children in the classroom what a transdisciplinary play-based curriculum is. Tell them how Read, Play, and Learn! is organized. Communicate in writing your classroo m philosophy and goals for overall development and emerging literacy. Let families know how cultural and language diversity are integrated in the classroom. For example, when reading A Rainbow of Friends, which discusses diversity of all types, tell parents how they can talk about how people are the same in many ways and yet they have different strengths, and when reading Abiyoyo, let families know that you are reading an old African folktale. Suggest that they recount folk stories from their own cultural background to their children. Relate to the families how reading experiences are integral to the broader communication processes, which include speaking, listening, and writing as well as other communication systems, such as art, music, and math. Point out how language and literacy development are linked to other areas of development. For example, when a child goes home and 'Trip, Traps" across the bridge, as in The Three Billy Goats Gruff, let the families know how the repeated role play helps the child to remember the story sequence, acquire a memory for sounds and patterns, and perhaps recognize simple word patterns. Your program philosophy can be part of the handbook you assemble for families, described in more detail in the next section.

Some parents will be interested in the rationale for a curriculum like Read, Play, and Learn! and you may want to provide some of the following information found in the research literature. It is important for parents to understand that repeated readings of the same story increase the number and kind of children's response to books (Morrow, 1987). In addition, children who have successive exposure to the same storybook provide higher level responses to questions than do children who are exposed to different books. They are better able to interpret the meaning of the story, predict outcomes, make associations and judgments, and give more detailed statements. Recurrent readings also encourage children to begin their first attempts at "reading" through storytelling as well as to focus on the print related to the storytelling. Children may begin to ask names of letters and words. Practice in retelling the story helps children to acquire the concepts of story structure, such as setting, theme, plot episodes, and resolution. Comprehension of story details also increases, and the child begins to attribute expression to the characters' voices (Morrow, 1985). Roser and Martinez (1985) found that children of lower abilities also demonstrate growth through repetitive readings. Not only do such research conclusions reinforce the use of storybooks as a foundation for early curriculum, but they also have implications for the repeated reading of storybooks at home.

Although your goals and philosophy should be available in written form for families, a personal discussion with parents and caregivers is also recommended. When possible, home visits are especially valuable; you can clarify a parent's questions, learn about each family's daily routines, and determine how reading and writing and other developmental issues are currently incorporated into the child's life. Personal communication at parent conferences (see page 165) is another option, but home visits tend to be more informal and comfortable.

Create a Set of Program Handouts

A set of handouts is intended to help parents and caregivers support their child's development in the Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum. In addition to your program's philosophy and goals, your handouts can include information about child development, emerging literacy, and parenting. Each handout should be brief and to the point, with lots of specific ideas for what families can be doing at home to help their child learn. You could also list other available community resources, such as storytime at the local public library, performances at children's theaters, and concerts.

Your handouts can be distributed to families one at a time or bound together as a handbook and given to families at the beginning of the school year. Handouts can be individualized for families or reproduced in the same format for everyone. Provide them at one-to-one parent conferences or during group meetings, or sendthem home with the children. If necessary, handouts can also be mailed to families. A sample set of handouts is provided in the next section of this chapter. Users of Read, Play, and Learn! are granted permission to photocopy this material or modify it for their purposes, but credit lines to Read, Play, and Learn! (like the ones at the bottom of each handout sample) must appear on every page borrowed or adapted from this curriculum.

Use Journals and Communication Notebooks

Much of the communication between educator and parent or caregiver takes place when children are dropped off or picked up; when parents' schedules prohibit them from participating in this routine, a personal journal or communication notebook that goes back and forth between school and home can be particularly helpful. This type of journal is also very useful for children who have special needs or who have many specialists in their lives.

Coordinating goals and sharing progress and challenges can be accomplished effectively by using a notebook in which you write a note and/or the child draws or "writes down" something special about the day to share with parents or others in the child's life. For instance, Nika was sent home with the following note to her parents: "Nika loves the story of Somebody and the Three Blairs. She particularly likes the humor in the pictures of Somebody making a mess." Just these two sentences provided Nika's parents with information about their child's enjoyment of school, the book the class was reading, and insight into her sense of humor. Parents often find these notes useful as they learn about their child's activities and then have a basis for talking to their child about those activities. Parents can also communicate with you about events influencing their child at home. "We have relatives visiting, so Nika's schedule has been irregular. She got to bed late last night. Just thought you might like to know why she is falling asleep while playing!," This back-and-forth journal can quickly become part of the daily routine and can help professionals and families monitor a child's growth and change.

Share "Good News" Messages

Parents love to hear something good about their child. Call parents or send home "good news" messages when the child has done something well or accomplished a new milestone. These calls will also provide a reason for the parents to communicate this positive feedback to their child. These positive messages also have the added advantage of making the parents feel more positive about their child's learning experiences, which, in turn, builds advocacy for your program.

Write to Families on a Regular basis

It is important that you continue to communicate with the families throughout the school year. Send home with the children a letter or newsletter on a regular basis (weekly is best) to inform families of what is taking place at school and what the families can do at home to strengthen their children's learning. These letters can give ideas for promoting all areas of development, The parents' role is to determine which of the suggestions offered they can implement. Even if the families choose not to use the ideas presented, some of the suggestions may stimulate parents to think of other things that they can do.

Each module in the Read, Play, and Learn! collections includes two sample letters to the families, one to let families know of the new storybook you are starting and one for the second week to give families a further overview of the kinds of activities in which the class is engaging. You can embellish these letters with further suggestions for activities that parents and children can do together (that relate to the current storybook theme), benefit the child's development and promote emerging literacy, and are just plain fun. In a newsletter, you might also include lists of suggested books for children and parents related to specific topics or themes, lists of predictable books, poetry or rhyming books, books in different languages, and whatever else you think will be helpful for the families. A "More Suggestions' section in each module will give you some ideas for newsletter content, but teams should be thinking of other ideas, too. it is also wise to consider separate communications or a translation for individual children or groups of children when their first language is not English, when there are special considerations or adaptations for a child, or when the language skills of the family may call for an individualized approach in the communication.

Although not all parents will have computers, many families will have access to e-mail. You may be able to e-mail parents to share announcements, answer questions that caregivers raise, and provide families with information about their child and how they can be supported in their learning. As the areas of technology and communication continue to evolve, there will certainly be even more options for parent-professional communication.

Have Discussions with the Children and Families

Before and after class is a great time to meet with the parents and caregivers of the children in your class. A 2 -minute catch-up between you and a parent or caregiver at drop-off and pick-up times can be critical for information sharing. Family members can touch base, find out about a special happening that day, hear a quick story about their child's accomplishments, and/or set up a meeting or telephone call with you during this time. This obviously cannot happen every day for each child in your class, but the occasional extended greeting can go a long way in connecting what is happening in the classroom with what is happening in a child's home environment.

Schedule Conferences

Schedule conferences and/or home visits on a regular basis to review each child's progress and jointly problem-solve with the parents about how learning can be further advanced at school and at home. Conferences provide an opportunity to deliberately discuss a child's progress at a specified time, but they should be informal dialogues, with conversation flowing between you and a parent or caregiver, not a teacher-directed, prepared presentation. For children with disabilities, you will, of course, need to be sure that the appropriate individualized family service plan (IFSP) or individualized education program (IEP) team meetings are scheduled throughout the year. Parents or caregivers are recognized by law (in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, PL 105-17) as key members of the team.

Make Your Classroom Informative for Families

Many parents will come into the classroom on a regular basis; others may drop in occasionally. Take advantage of these brief moments. Even when you cannot take time to talk to every parent, they may be able to glance at your colorful, informative bulletin board. Develop these bulletin boards (they are not just for the children!) and table displays that highlight that week's story. Post schedules of classroom activities and pictures of what is happening in the classroom. For example, when reading A Rainbow of Friends, have the children make a similar book of themselves engaged in activities with their friends. This book could be left in a special place entitled "Our Rainbow of Friends." Both children and parents love looking at the pictures and having the children point out their friends or activities.

Written suggestions for home can also be available on the bulletin board. Staple an envelope on the board that contains "recipes for fun" that parents can pick up and take home. The ideas can include actual recipes of materials or foods prepared in the class as part of the module, vocabulary to emphasize at home, and ideas for fun activities for the family to try that are related to the current theme and story and that foster the child's development. For example, during the module based on A Porcupine Named Fluffy, some of the following "recipes for fun" might be offered:


Provide Opportunities for Story Reading and Family Sharing

Invite parents to participate in story reading time at school. First let them observe how the story is read. They will then see a model for interaction with children around books. You may also want to let parents be the story readers or storytellers as they become comfortable with the interactive process. (Books can be translated for families whose first language is not English.)

You may also provide opportunities for parents, grandparents, or siblings to visit the classroom and read to the children at individual book reading time. Relatives may also share a family story or cultural experience, introduce new brothers and sisters, or share their special skills or talents (e.g., computer skills, visual or performing arts skills, construction ability) with the children individually, in groups, or in centers. For example, family members might be invited to come to a ,reading day" during the module on The Snowy Day (preferably on a snowy day if your area gets snow). The children (and family members, if they want) could come in their pajamas with their stuffed animals. The family members could read to the children as long as desired and share hot chocolate.

Create a time for parents or caregivers to introduce a new child to your classroom. Ask them to talk about their family, share pictures or stories, and describe what is special about their child and family. This may lead to a discussion among the children about how their families are alike or different. include parents in observing and noting their child's developmental progress, including emerging literacy.

Family members may volunteer to prepare snacks consistent with storybook themes. Many parents have creative recipes to share and would love to help to make them in the classroom. For example, during the module based on The Three Little Javelinas, one mother helped the children make tortillas and then showed them how to use different fillings at snacktime.

Involve Families in the Centers

Invite parents to participate in literacy and other developmental activities in the classroom, including those in the Dramatic Play: Theme Area, the Literacy Center, and the Science and Math Center. Family members may also enjoy making books or doing projects with individual children. Give the parents specific instructions about what their roles are to reduce misunderstandings. Make a list of guidelines for parents so that they know how to interact with children in the classroom.

Involve Families in Class Projects

Parents may want to help with various school or classroom projects. One option is to have a parent help set up the Family Resource Room and collect books and toys for all of the children to check out and take home (see "Create a Family Resource Room" later in this chapter). Book, videotape, and toy lending libraries provide a convenient way for parents to augment the materials they have at home. The Family Resource Room can provide otherwise unavailable resources to families, particularly those with limited economic means. You can also provide opportunities for parents and family members to be involved in classroom or school projects, such as "book fairs," "book shares," holiday festivities, clean-up days, and school fairs.

Enlist parents to help develop "book bags.' Book bags are special bags or backpacks that are filled with module-related items, including the book, a tape of the book being read, puppets, dolls, stuffed animals or miniature characters for roleplaying the story, and activities for family members to do together. For example, a book bag for The Kissing Hand might include the book, a blank tape for a parent to tape-record the story, raccoon puppets that represent Chester and his mother, plastic forest animals, pieces of fur to make raccoon art pieces, and heart stickers.

The children covet these book bags, and being able take one home is a real treat. Parents may also offer to add something to the book bag for other children or for the classroom. You might be surprised at what a few creative parents can contribute! (One parent made a dragon suit complete with shiny scales for the module on The Knight and the Dragon!)

Conduct Group Programs

Determine what information is of interest to the children's families through a needs assessment (formal written survey or informal verbal survey), and provide informational and interactive workshops for parents on topics of interest. implementing parent workshops, such as the one described in the next section of this chapter (see 'Conducting Workshops for Families"), can help parents understand emerging literacy and what they can do at home to help facilitate their child's development. Workshops might also focus on "How to Play with Your Child," "How to Cope with Difficult Behaviors," and other developmental topics. Give parents options about topics, formats, who presents or leads the workshops, whether children are involved, and whether child care is needed.

Parents especially like child-involved parent programs. You can show them videotapes of their children that your team has made in the classroom. As you watch the classroom videotapes, discuss what is happening, why, and how development is being facilitated. Parents also love to watch their children in a live perf ormance. For example, a reenactment of The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is great fun. Each of the children can have a role in the story (e.g., shaking a glove, stomping a boot).

One successful program option has been to set up parent-led discussion groups on topics of interest to many of the parents. For example, as children are "graduating" to the next class, parents and caregivers are often interested in what this change will mean, how they can best communicate with their child about the change, and what they should talk about with their child's new teacher. Sharing experiences and ideas with parents who have previously gone through such changes may be helpful.

Bring Families Together

Formal gatherings are not the only option for including parents and caregivers. You could also have social gatherings to highlight a story theme and extend what is happening in the classroom to family fun. Families may be included on field trips, such as the barbecue in the park during the module on The Knight and the Dragon. For families who cannot participate in day activities, Family Fun Nights can be planned. Family Fun Nights can incorporate activities related to the story theme in which all of the family can participate. For example, a Family Fun Night during the module on Picking Apples &Pumpkins might include making apple pies and carving pumpkins to take home. These evenings enable families to meet each other, to experience the types of activities their children are doing in school, and to learn how to carry out similar experiences at home. Children and their families can also work on projects together. Projects, such as building a puppet theater for the classroom, can be fun for everyone involved and benefit the classroom.

You may want to hold occasional parent "coffees" to share information about child development, literacy, community resources, and so forth. These can be held in the relaxed atmosphere of a Family Resource Room (described in more detail below). Be flexible with the times you schedule these, taking into consideration the work hours of the parents and caregivers; a "coffee" does not have to be the traditional mid-morning chat.

Make sure that parents have the telephone numbers of the other children and parents in the class. This will encourage play dates for the children and networking among parents. Establish a "telephone tree" to help the parents contact other parents to pass on important information, share resources, or make social connections.

Create a Family Resource Room

Create a Family Resource Room for all of the classrooms in your school to share. Such a room can provide opportunities for parents and families to share with each other; to have access to books, toys, articles, and other resources; and to just have a place to relax for a few minutes and connect with other parents. If possible, have a computer and Internet hook-up available in the Family Resource Room to allow families who do not have a computer at home to search for information and resources. One option is to have a parent be in charge of setting up and keeping this room filled with useful resources.

Establish Parent-School-Community Contact

Establish an advisory board to meet quarterly to provide feedback, solve problems, be involved in program planning and evaluation, and promote parent participation. Advisory boards may consist entirely of parents or may include alumni parents and community members, such as people from community agencies or representatives of specific disciplines that can provide expert consultation (legal, medical, public relations, funding, etc.). Advisory boards not only provide input and feedback but can also serve as a valuable connection to the community. A community advocacy base is a critical element in successfully finding funding when budgets are tight and measuring up to standards of accountability.

Add a Parent Consultant to Your Team

If funding is available, establishing a position on your early childhood team for a parent consultant is a good idea. This individual might be a veteran parent of a child with special needs, an experienced parent with a background in early childhood education, or a parent with experience with agencies serving children and families. The role of this individual is to be a mentor and resource consultant to families in your program. A parent consultant might also determine families' interests and needs, organize parent programs and interactions, maintain the telephone tree, coordinate the newsletter, maintain the Family Resource Room and lending library, convene the parent advisory board, and evaluate the parents' perceptions of the program. This person could also enhance the use of community-based services and supports through information sharing, connecting families to resources in the community, and providing information on and facilitation of transition planning for families. The consultant can be a link with families that helps keep them involved in the program, a link to the community and parent resources, a link with service organizations for funding and special projects, and a link to volunteer organizations.

A parent consultant can also be valuable in the role of parent as trainer, during which he or she mentors or co-teaches components of the parent workshops. This person has credibility with other parents and, thus, can sometimes be a more effective trainer than early childhood professionals who may not be as comfortable relating to groups of parents as they are to groups of children. The person who is the parent consultant can be an invaluable member of the team and can make the program more meaningful to families.

Ask Families for Their Opinions

Obtaining feedback on the effectiveness of your family involvement efforts is important. Using surveys, such as the "Things We Do at Home" survey (see Figure 1) and reaction and feedback sheets that you create using a rating scale can provide information about the effectiveness of activities and workshops. Program satisfaction questionnaires are also an effective way to keep the communication lines open between you and the families. These will help you to evaluate your program efforts, to plan for future events, and to ensure that you are meeting the individual needs of each child and family.


A Survey for Families

Child's name:
Parent name(s):

Your child is growing and learning all the time. It will help us to know more about how your child plays at home and the kinds of things you do together. Then we can be sure we help your child with learning at school in the best ways possible.

Things My Child Likes to Do at Home

I . Scribbles or draws pictures:
checkbox yes checkbox no
(if yes, then check the following that apply to your child.)
checkbox pencils checkbox pens checkbox crayons checkbox chalk checkbox markers

2. Has had experiences using (check the following that apply to your child):
checkbox coloring books checkbox scissors checkbox stamp pads checkbox clay or playdough
checkbox stencils (drawing around shapes) checkbox tracing checkbox alphabet letters or numbers

3. Plays educational games:
checkbox yes checkbox no
(if yes, then check the following that apply to your child.)
checkbox matching pictures (Lotto) checkbox color games checkbox counting games

4. Talks about what he or she is playing or tells stories about the action of figures (e.g., toy people, animals, cars/trucks):
checkbox yes checkbox no

5. Likes to look at books or have stories read to him or her:
checkbox yes checkbox no
(If yes, then check the following that apply to your child.)
checkbox pretends to read books
checkbox remembers the story and tells part of it
checkbox talks about the pictures
checkbox can retell the whole story
checkbox asks questions about the story

6. Knows some words or signs in the environment (e.g., a stop sign, McDonald's golden arches, cereal boxes):
checkbox yes checkbox no

7. Asks for help in knowing about signs or words he or she sees:
checkbox yes checkbox no

8. Recognizes his or her name in print:
checkbox yes checkbox no

9. Knows some or all of the letters in his or her name:
checkbox yes checkbox no

10. Asks you to write words or letters for him or her:
checkbox yes checkbox no

11. Pretends to write (by scribbling or making some letters):
checkbox yes checkbox no

Things I Do with My Child

1 . Talk with my child about what he or she is playing:
checkbox yes checkbox no

2. Talk with my child about family plans or things he or she will be doing:
checkbox yes checkbox no

3. Ask questions to help my child think about what he or she sees or is doing:
checkbox yes checkbox no

4. Play "pretend" or "make-believe" with my child:
checkbox yes checkbox no

5. Tell stories about our family or culture:
checkbox yes checkbox no

6. Sing songs, tell nursery rhymes, or play rhyming games:
checkbox yes checkbox no

7. Look, at books or magazines, read stories, or look at story videotapes with my child:
checkbox yes checkbox no

8. Take my child to the library to hear stories or choose books:
checkbox yes checkbox no

9. Point out a sign or a word and tell my child what it means:
checkbox yes checkbox no

10. Tell my child the names of colors, alphabet letters, or numbers:
checkbox yes checkbox no

11. Read with my child:
checkbox daily at bedtime checkbox daily at bedtime as well as other times during the day
checkbox two or three times per week checkbox less than two or three times per week

When we Read Together, My Child...(Please use scale.)

Not at this time



All the time

1. Pretends to read the story





2. Fills in words or lines from the text of the story





3. Asks questions about the story





4. Answers yes and no questions about the story





5. Comments on the story, labels, or names and talks about pictures, characters, and so forth





6. Points to pictures





7. Turns pages or indicates when you should turn them and performs other actions (e.g., lifts flaps)





8. Comments about something other than the story or related experiences





9. Follows and attends to the story





10. Identifies letters and sounds





11. "Reads" or recognizes words and phrases





12. Makes up new story line or endings





13. Other ______





When We Read Together, I ...

Not at this time



All the time

1. Relate the story to my child's own experiences (e.g., "That looks like your truck," "We saw one like that at the zoo")





2. Label or name pictures and events in the story





3. Ask my child yes/no questions about the book (e.g., "is that a truck?")





5. Require my child to contribute in some way:
checkbox to point to pictures checkbox to turn pages
checkbox to request attention ("Look at . . .")





6. Use conversational "fillers" (e.g., make noises/sound effects)





7. Confirm my child's attempts to communicate





8. Offer a choice of books





9. Read story/text





10. Identify letters and sounds that my child points out





11. Wait for my child to "fill in" words or phrases





12. Other __________





I Would Like More information About
  1. What types of stories/books my child might like: checkbox yes checkbox no
  2. Resources and information about how children learn to talk: checkbox yes checkbox no
  3. Resources and information about how children learn to read and write: checkbox yes checkbox no
  4. Toys, games, and other resources to help my child learn:checkbox yes checkbox no
  5. Strategies and activities appropriate for my child as he or she develops language and literacy: checkbox yes checkbox no

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey.

From Read, Play, and Learn! by Toni W. Linder 0 1999 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.


Figure 1. Use a survey, such as the one shown in this figure, to help ascertain what families know and what they would like more information about. Asking participants to complete the "Things We Do at Home" survey before the first workshop helps prepare family members for discussion and information sharing. (Adapted and reproduced by permission for the Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum from S. Moore, S. McCord, & D. Boudreau. [ 19971. Things we do at home survey. Child Learning Center, University of Colorado at Boulder.)

Conducting Workshops for Families

Setting up a series of workshops for family members to heighten their awareness of emergent literacy activities and how they can be implemented and adapted to meet the needs of individual children can be an excellent way to reinforce the material that you send home in handout format. Emergent literacy for children "depends upon reading role models, opportunities to explore, and interaction with adults" (Saint-Laurent, Giasson, & Couture, 1997, p. 52). When you offer educational workshops for families, you help parents, caregivers, and other family members become better role models.

It is important to begin any program designed to support families' learning and participation with a discussion of what the families know and what they want more information about. Before the first workshop, ask families to complete a "Things We Do at Home" survey; by considering the items on this survey, they will have a basis for discussion and information sharing at the workshop. The survey (see Figure 1) asks parents to notice things their child likes to do at home that have to do with emergent literacy (e.g., scribbling, drawing, reading, playing, talking). It also highlights the interactions between parent and child that are critical to the interactive reading process. Answering the survey's questions helps family members get a better idea of what is meant by emergent literacy and a better understanding of the level of learning in which their child may be engaged. Most important, the survey requests that family members think about questions they have or resources and information they need to help their child in the learning process. This will assist you, the other members of your team, and your parent consultant (if your classroom has one) individualize the subsequent learning that happens in the workshops.

Designing a Workshop Agenda

Based on the survey results, discussions you and your team members have, and the needs and objectives of your program, you will then be ready to design the content of your workshops. A sample agenda for one workshop is displayed in Figure 2. This agenda focuses on literacy and language learning as an interactive process that occurs within a context of daily routines, play, and interactive storybook reading. Activities in which parents are asked to participate are designed to model the interactive nature of the learning process. In addition to providing an orientation to the Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum, you will want to plan small group and large group activities that last no longer than 2 hours. Each section of the sample agenda is described below.

What is Read, Play, and Learn!?

After family members have had an opportunity to meet each other and/or talk informally, open the session with a brief description of Read, Play, and Learn! The extent of this overview will depend on the timing of your first workshop in relation to the start of the school year and how familiar the family participants are with the curriculum. Select for the group to read one of the books from Read, Play, and Learn! or another predictable or repetitive story you are using in your classroom. A storybook like Abiyoyo is a good choice. Have everyone join in and be involved in the reading. Explain that this is how the children start each day at school, reading the storybook together.

What is Literacy?

In this segment of the workshop, lead attendees in brainstorming about "What do you think about when you think about literacy?' Having parents and caregivers call out words or phrases, which you can capture on a flipchart, is helpful in clarifying parental perspectives, thoughts, questions, and viewpoints. It is especially fun to look at words that denote similar meaning across languages. For example, family members often list key words such as "listening," reading," and "writing" at first and then begin to add more qualitative descriptors such as "quiet time," ,sharing, " "bedtime," and so forth. From there you can move into the literacy environment in their home (McCord, 1995; Moore, McCord, & Boudreau, 1997).


Read, Play, and Learn!

Storybook Activities for Young children

Building Foundations for Language, Literacy, and Learning: A Family and Team Workshop


  1. What is Read, Play, and Learn!? (15 minutes) Reading a sample story
  2. What is literacy? (10 minutes)
  3. How to create a literacy-rich environment in your daily routines (small-group activity) (30 minutes Interaction Rich environment)
  4. How to foster interactive storybook reading (large group activity; videotape viewing) (30 minutes)
  5. Where do we. go from here? ... Our next session (5 minutes)

diagram of interaction and rich environment

From Read, Play, and Learn! by Toni W. Linder copyright 1999 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.


Figure 2. If possible, consult with other team members and your parent consultant to design the agenda for your first workshop. Include overview information and small and large group activities, like the example shown here. (Adapted and modified by permission for the Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum from Moore et al. [1997]. Child Learning Center, University of Colorado at Boulder.)

How to Create a Literacy-Rich Environment (Small-Group Activity)

Break attendees into small groups of four to six based on similarities in their children's literacy level. In this way they can share common experiences. Brainstorm the many ways they can pull literacy into daily routines such as going to the bank, shopping at the market, driving in the car, straightening up at home, working in the kitchen, taking baths, or whatever activities the parents and caregivers suggest. It is often helpful to set the stage for this part of the workshop by collecting items that you can set out in stations to stimulate ideas and help trigger parents' thinking (e.g., old checkbooks, deposit slips, and receipts help create a bank area; toy cars, miniature road signs, and road maps provide the basis for traveling in the car area). Store these collectibles in plastic bags with labels denoting their routine (e.g., "BANK," "AIRPORT," "MARKET"). It is also helpful to choose a book to be included in each setup that illustrates the theme. While one small group is talking about daily routines, another group might be brainstorming opportunities for literacy building around holidays or customs (e.g., birthday parties); use invitations, wrapping paper, name cards, and so forth to get the small group discussions going. Give the small groups sufficient time to create their lists of ideas, and then bring everyone together again. Participants have fun sharing all of the creative and .real" ideas that family members come up with. Participants quickly realize it is the interaction that happens with their child that supports growth in language and literacy learning, rather than literacy artifacts made available in the home (Moore et al., 1997).

Indeed, the daily routines in work and play, in the give and take between parent and child, will create an environment rich in opportunity for emergent literacy and other developmental skills.

Talking with young children is very much like playing ball with them. What the adult has to do for this game to be successful is, first, to ensure that the child is ready, with arms cupped, to catch the ball. Then the ball must be thrown gently and accurately so that it lands squarely in the child's arms. When it is the child's turn to throw, the adult must be prepared to run wherever it goes and bring it back to where the child really intended it to go. Such is the collaboration required in conversation, the adult doing a great deal of supportive work to enable the ball to be kept in play. (Wells, 1986, p. 50)

This is an apt analogy that also describes what happens during interactive storybook reading.

How to Foster Interactive Storybook Reading (Large-Group Activity; Videotape Viewing)

Watching videotapes of caregivers reading to young children is an excellent strategy to illustrate good ways of reading to children that foster interaction and build a literacy-rich environment. Watching a videotape of a dad, mom, or older sibling reading with a young child brings to life just how critical the type of interaction is to successful literacy skill building. By watching the videotapes, participants readily see that the children behave in many ways, from touching or snuggling, to occasionally turning a page or pointing to a picture, to filling in words and phrases, to demanding to hold the book and read it themselves. Engaging the child in interaction will depend on the child's state (e.g., is he or she tired or ready to "read"?), age, and level of literacy learning as well as the relationship between caregiver and child. Children may quickly lose interest if a reader sticks only to the text without matching the child's level of interest and ability.

Parents and caregivers quickly recognize the natural strategies that promote interactive storybook reading. Use of these strategies allows time for the child to initiate questions, make comments, and expand his or her world knowledge. For many parents, it is comforting to see fathers and mothers struggling with the squirming child who is not necessarily interested in looking at a book at that moment or the "talker" who interrupts so often that it seems reading time will never end. Recognizing that a child's demands to have the same story read over and over again are natural is also reassuring.

Watching videotapes of interactive storybook reading not only provides a model for family members of strategies they might use effectively but also allows participants time to formulate additional questions about the reading process. Parents quickly recognize that there is no one "blueprint" for how you read with a young child. Give each participant a worksheet that allows them to jot down answers to the following questions: "What do you see?" "What was helpful to keep the child interested?" (and other questions you might want to pose). The worksheet is a helpful tool to elicit comments about the videotapes and focus your group's discussion. Point out the individual ways of interacting, and draw parallels to young children's individual learning styles and pace of interaction.

So start developing your library of videotaped interactive storybook reading now and be sure to collect stories with different age children and a variety of readers and children with challenges so that you can present a full array of variations on the theme. Friends and colleagues reading to their children may be a productive resource for starting up your video library.

Where Do We Go from Here?... Our Next Session

Close your workshop with a look ahead at what topics could be covered in later workshops. Be sure to ask attendees about their preferences. If possible, announce the date and time for the next meeting. It is a good idea to vary the day and time of the week so that family members who were not able to attend this workshop because of a regularly scheduled conflict can make another meeting.

Additional Ideas for Workshops

With the families and your team members, you will find it easy to identify topics for additional workshops. Some specific ideas, tested at the Child Learning Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder (Moore et al., 1997) follow, but be sure to personalize the content for your own group.

Individualize Interactive Storybook Reading

After seeing videotapes of storybook readings at the first workshop, many family members are then eager to videotape themselves as they read with their own children. For other families, the home videotaping may, at first, seem uncomfortable or threatening, but given the choice to participate, parents are likely to choose to tape themselves. Suggest that they check out a camera from your program or borrow one from a friend to tape the reading of one of the storybooks from a Read, Play, and Learn! module in addition to a much loved and favorite book. You could also offer to tape the parent and child during reading time at your center. You can then set up a second workshop and have families bring in their videotapes. Use a small-group activity format, in which participants break into small groups to share and review their tapes. Encourage the parents and caregivers to look for strengths first. Then, lead the participants in a self -identification process to name next steps for both themselves and their child. Help participants reflect on what they might do to encourage their child to "bump up" in skill or concept attainment. A handout, like the one shown in Figure 3, gives family members a convenient way to note their reactions to the videotape in a positive format. In addition to helping caregivers spell out strengths they see in themselves and in their child, the worksheet can continue to be used to add next steps for the child and specific strategies the parent wants to try.

As participants complete the second half of the "Stories and Strategies" worksheet, they are beginning to develop an individualized literacy plan for themselves and their child. Such a plan helps parents and caregivers clarify expectations for their child. It also supports family members as they recognize all they can do to encourage interactive storybook reading at home.

Introduce the "Cards on the Table" Game

Another activity to incorporate into a workshop with family members is "Cards on the Table," an interactive game that demands that participants work together to solve a word puzzle. Divide the participants into small groups. Give each group a set of cards with various words or phrases from a notable quotation about reading, literature, or literacy. Instruct the groups to arrange the cards until they arrive at a readable quote. Figure 4 displays some quotations that have been used and enjoyed by families pairticipating in workshops at the Child Learning Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Asking participants to make sense out of a mixed-up pile of words helps family members experience the struggle of learning to read. Participants may share feelings of frustration and failure recalled from their own school days. This activity can be used productively to reflect on the reading process itself and learn more about what is involved for children in "cracking the code." It may also dramatically demonstrate the frustration that can occur if even one word does not fit or make sense or if you do not know the language being used. (To enhance cultural sensitivity, consider using quotations translated from researchers' writing in other languages or familiar quotations from a different culture written in a parent's native language.) "Cards on the Table" should also evoke positive feelings experienced when working together, especially when a project comes to a successful completion.

Play "Let's Watch TV"

This activity is designed to heighten caregivers' awareness about what young children are exposed to when they spend hour after hour in front of a television. Ask participants about television viewing practices in their households; name with the group readily recognized commercials, popular cartoons, and commonly watched programs. With just a few examples, it is easy to kick off a productive discussion of how time can be spent in other ways. Explore with participants the ramifications of passive watching versus the interactive participation of young children during play or when reading.

Read, Play, and Learn!
Storybook Activities for Young Children

Stories and Strategies:
A Family and Team Workshop

Worksheet for Viewing Videotapesof Interactive Storybook Reading

Family member name: Susan


Parent/caregiver strength

  • Relaxed
  • Repeated what Chris said
  • Says what Chris is pointing to
  • Pace matches child's
  • Supportive
  • Left off end of sentence for Chris to fill in
  • Nice pace of turns

Child strengths

  • Relates written words to spoken word
  • Active and involved in reading process
  • Points to words
  • Names letters as he points
  • Persists in trying to name letter; good concentration
  • Good book-handling skills
  • Pointed to pictures and commented
  • Good memory

Next steps for child

  • Relate his experiences to the book
  • Expand labels to tell more of the story

Strategies for parent/caregiver

  • Tell Chris, "It's your turn to tell the story"
  • Keep using fill-in-the-blank technique and allow bigger spaces for him to fill in
  • Relax about "not finishing"—be happy with any page

From Read, Play, and Learn! by Toni W. Linder 0 1999 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Figure 3. After families have videotaped themselves at home reading to their child, hold a workshop in which parents view each others' tapes in partner groups. Provide participants with a worksheet to complete for each tape they view. The example shown in this figure has been completed by a mother, Susan, who has just watched the tape of her own reading with her son Chris. Rather than focusing on problems in the interactive reading, the worksheet helps participants focus on caregiver and child strengths and identify what they want to work on in the future. (Adapted by permission for the Read, Play, and Learn! curriculum from Moore et al. [1997]. Child Learning Center, University of Colorado at Boulder.)


Quotations for "Cards on the Table"

"Learning to read and write is critical to a child's success in school and later in life."
—IRA and NAEYC, 1998, p. 30

"Children who are frequently read to will then 'read' their favorite books by themselves. "
—Sulzby and Teale, 1987, p. 5

"Reading is a complex developmental challenge that we know to be intertwined with many other developmental accomplishments."
—Snow, Burns, and Griffin, 1998, p. 15

"Only 39% of parents read or look at a picture book with their children once a day."
—Young, Davis, and Schoen, 1996, Appendix B-5

"Our challenge as educators is to make it possible for all children, regardless of ability, experience, or cultural heritage, to feel successful in their attempts to be literate."
—McCord, 1995, p. 105

From Read, Play, and Learn! by Toni W. Linder copyright 1999 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Figure 4. 'Cards on the Table" is a word puzzle game that can help simulate some of the frustrations felt by inexperienced readers. Using quotations like the ones shown in this figure, print single words or clusters of just a few words from the quote on a series of cards. Shuffle the cards and give each group a set of cards to reassemble into the quotation. (Examples here selected by the Child Learning Center, University of Colorado at Boulder. Sources are listed in the reference list at the end of this chapter.)

Spend time in this activity, too, talking with participants about how children love to watch their favorite videotapes over and over again. How is this viewing like reading and rereading a favorite book, and how is it different? Are videotapes used to create "down time" during an especially trying period of the day or when a child is tired? How do participants feel about these uses? Your discussion will soon center on how much is too much and what children should be watching. Although the decision about TV watching is ultimately the families' choice, such a discussion can lead to heightened awareness of benefits and consequences. Alternative activities that focus on literacy learning that can take the place of TV could be discussed and shared.

Hold a Book Share

Invite your librarian, an early childhood educator knowledgeable about children's literature, or a representative from the children's section of your favorite local bookstore to come talk to family members in a relaxed workshop format. You might suggest that everyone sit in a circle on the floor; place stacks of books in the center to be examined and passed around. Participants can pull out a book that looks interesting to them or appropriate for their child. Stop the passing to allow time for family members to select passages (funny or tender) to read aloud and enjoy the wealth of new discoveries. Participants can jot down titles and authors to refer to later when they go to the library or bookstore. A Book Share handout, like the one in Figure 5, gives everyone an easy way to note the books they want to try.

This workshop is also a good one to conduct with your team members or a group of early childhood care providers and educators. Sharing favorite stories gives everyone ideas for books that complement those used in the Read, Play, and Learn! modules; add these to the Literacy Center and other areas of your classroom.

Book Share




Age range:

Special features:

This book is about ...

It would be fun to use this book to ...

From Read, Play, and Learn! by Toni W. Linder 0 1999 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Figure 5. "Book Share" cards, copied and handed out during an informal workshop to talk about favorite storybooks, give participants an easy way to take notes about the books they would like to obtain from their local library or bookstore.

Extend Your Connections with Family Members

In addition to your plans for a family involvement component and accompanying workshops, there are many other creative activities and ways to establish connections between home and school. The suggestions offered in this chapter are just a sampling of the many ways that parents can be connected to your program.

Set aside time during some of your team meetings to think about What Do We Do Now? List all of the ways you are communicating with, providing guidance to, and supporting family members and caregivers in their efforts to enhance their child's literacy learning at home. Next to this column, list Possibilities, the additional things you want to consider doing with family members and caregivers. Your third column should then be Next Steps, your ideas in terms of what you need to do next and what resources you have to bring to the tasks at hand. You now have an individualized action plan for extending your connections with family members. Review your plan regularly, and enjoy the excitement and positive results from this endeavor.

Plan to use a combination of communication methods so that distinct learning styles are respected. In addition to the many strategies provided in this chapter specifically pertaining to reading and writing skill development, the books that complement this transdisciplinary play-based curriculum, such as Transdisciplinary Play-Based Intervention: Guidelines for Developing a Meaningful Curriculum for Young Children (Linder, 1993), offer suggestions to use with parents in the areas of cognitive, social- emotional, communication and language, and sensorimotor skill development. The involvement of parents in their child's education is now recognized as an important factor in a child's success in school.

Certainly, parents can benefit from information we share about their child, child development, and the program. It is important to remember, however, that you and your team can benefit just as much from the information and skills parents and other family members have to offer you. Programs can be much richer and more consequential when the knowledge and expertise of professionals and families are integrated for the benefit of children.

Creating Handouts for Families

This section of the chapter describes how to create a set of handouts for families to use at home. Sample handouts are included, which you can photocopy and distribute to parents and caregivers as the topics become relevant to activities in your classroom. Handouts can be given to families during one-to-one or group meetings, handed out as children are picked up at the end of the day, or mailed home. You can bind them together as a single send-home handbook. You may also reproduce the samples with your own modifications to suit your particular program's circumstances. You and your team should discuss the most efficient methods for your program.

As stated previously, users of Read, Play, and learn! are permitted to photocopy or reproduce these pages provided that proper credit to their source is included on every copy and no commercial gain is associated with their distribution. Your program cannot charge anyone for a copy of the handbook or for individual handouts.

Each new topic begins on its own page to facilitate your copying of the mate rial. You will probably want to make one photocopy of the page and then add identifying information for your program before making the number of copies you will need.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, PL 105-17, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq.

International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. A joint position statement of the International Reading Association (IRA) & National Association for the Education of young Children (NAEYC). Newark, DE: Author.

Linder, T.W. (1993). Transdisciplinary play-based intervention: Guidelines for developing a meaningful curriculum for young children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

McCord, S. (199 5). The storybook journey: Pathways to literacy through story and play. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Moore, S., McCord, S., & Boudreau, D. (November, 1997). Language and literacy in the classroom: Transitions to kindergarten. A presentation at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention, Boston, MA.

Morrow, L.M. (1985). Retelling stories: A strategy for improving children's comprehension, concept of story structure and oral language complexity. Elementary School Journal, 85,647-661.

Morrow, L.M. (1987). The effects of one-to-one story reading on children's questions and comments. In S. Baldwin & J. Readance (Eds.), Thirty-sixth yearbook of the National Reading Conference. Rochester, NY: National Reading Conference.

Morrow, L.M. (1997). Literacy development in the early years: helping children read and write. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Roser, N., & Martinez, M. (1985). Roles adults play in preschool responses to literature. Language Arts, 62, 485-490.

Saint-Laurent, L., Giasson, J., & Couture, C. (1997, November/December). Parents + children + reading activities = Emergent literacy. Teaching Exceptional Children, 52-56.

Snow, C., Burns, S.M., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Sulzby, E., & Teale, W.H. (1987). Young children's storybook reading: Longitudinal study of parent-child interaction and children's independent functioning. Final report to the Spencer Foundation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Young, K.T., Davis, K., & Schoen, C. (1996). The Commonwealth Fund Survey of Parents and Young Children. New York: The Commonwealth Fund.

Wells, G. (1986). The meaning makers: Children learning language and using language to learn. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

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